Monday, April 18, 2016

David Spinozza - 1978 - Spinozza

David Spinozza
1978
Spinozza 




01. Superstar - Bramlett, Bramlett, Russell 5:45
02. On My Way to the Liquor Store Pendarvis 6:52
03. Prelude to "The Ballerina" - Spinozza 3:13
04. The Ballerina - Spinozza 5:27
05. Edge of the Sword - Mainieri, Spinozza 5:01
06. Country Bumpkin - Mainieri, Spinozza 4:06
07. Doesn't She Know by Now - Spinozza 4:45
08. Airborne - Spinozza 5:35
09. High Button Shoes - Monnsey 3:19


David Spinozza : electric guitar (on 1,2,5,8,9), acoustic guitar (on 3,4,7), vocals (on 4)
Joe Caro : guitar (on 1,2,5,6,8,9)
Anthony Jackson : bass (except on 3)
Rick Marotta : drums (on 1,6,7,8)
Steve Jordan : drums (on 2,5,9)
Mike Mainieri : polymoog synthesizer (on 1), synthesizer (on 2,6), percussion (on 6), vibes (on 8), xylophone (on 9)
Leon Pendarvis : acoustic piano (on 1,2,7), electric piano (on 6)
Rob Mounsey : electric piano (on 2,8,9)
Warren Bernhardt : acoustic piano (on 4,9), clavinet/Fender Rhodes/synth (on 5)
Don Grolnick : acoustic piano (on 6)
Gary Mure : percussion (on 4)
David Carey : percussion (on 4)
Rubens Bassini : percussion (on 5)
Eric Weisberg : banjo/pedal steel guitar (on 6)
Michael Brecker : tenor saxohone (on 7)
Luther Vandross : background vocals (on 1,7)
David Lasley : background vocals (on 1,7)
Diva Gray : background vocals (on 1,7)
Kim Carlson : background vocals (on 3), scat vocal (on 8)




David Spinozza is an American musician (guitar), who worked with former Beatles Paul McCartney and John Lennon during the 1970s, and had a long collaboration with singer-songwriter James Taylor, producing Taylor's album Walking Man.
Spinozza worked with McCartney during sessions for McCartney's Ram album during 1971. When the chance came to work with Lennon two years later, as Yoko Ono prepared her Feeling the Space album and Lennon his Mind Games, Spinozza discovered that Lennon was not aware he had previously worked with McCartney, and was afraid he would be fired if Lennon found out, given their recent feuding in the media. When Lennon did learn of it, his only comment was that McCartney "knows how to pick good people."
Spinozza contributed to Ono's album A Story, recorded during 1974 (but not released until 1998), served as her bandleader during a residency at Kenny's Castaways, and rehearsed Ono's band to tour her native Japan, but parted ways with her when the tour began. After no communication for several years, Ono contacted Spinozza late in 1980, for his permission to release "It Happened", a track from A Story, as a B-side to "Walking on Thin Ice", her tribute to the recently-assassinated John Lennon and the last song they had recorded together. Spinozza gave his permission. The track appeared with a new coda, recorded by Lennon and Ono's band from Double Fantasy.
Spinozza also appeared on Ringo Starr's 1977 album Ringo the 4th, earning him the distinction of having recorded with three of the four Beatles.
Spinozza played the guitar solo on Dr. John's hit, "Right Place Wrong Time", Paul Simon's albums Paul Simon and There Goes Rhymin' Simon, Don McLean's American Pie, and later made contributions to the soundtracks of the movies Dead Man Walking, Happiness, and Just the Ticket. The first album David produced in its entirety was the Folk rock trio Arthur, Hurley & Gottlieb who were signed by Clive Davis during his ten years as president Columbia records.
He held the first guitar chair in the Broadway orchestra of Hairspray, and is currently appearing with his reunited band from 1973, "L'Image" which also includes Mike Mainieri, Warren Bernhardt, Tony Levin and Steve Gadd.


Mandrill - 1982 - Energize

Mandrill 
1982 
Energize




01. Put Your Money Where The Funk Is
02. Bust Loose
03. Wired For Love
04. Starry-eyed
05. Soar Like An Eagle
06. Get It While It's Hot
07. Believe In You


- Carlos Wilson / trombone, vocals
- Lou Wilson / trumpet, vocals
- Ric Wilson /sax, vocals



It's quite interesting, that the avid rabid 'drill fans AND the casually interested ones thought Mandrill's final swan song was their third and final album for ARISTA, 1980's 'Getting in the Mood.' NOT SO!! The boys labored about for a few years before hooking up with a brand spanking new subsidary of the Capitol label known as 'MONTAGE' Records, whose home base was Los Angeles, California. (The label's roster included R&B notables, ROLLS ROYCE featuring the gorgeously talented vocalist RICCI BENSON and also the Motor City based funkifized ensemble, SHOTGUN, who previously had recorded several releases for the THEN recently merged MCA/ABC label from 1976 to 1982.) Mandrill's 12th album, entitled 'ENERGIZED' was a bit of a departure for the group, focusing on more of a 'stripped down approach' for their funk oriented grooves and technical prowess. Another sign of the times for the 'Drills, was the departure of their close friend and long time associate, the classically trained Claude 'Coffee' Cave - the all around RENAISSANCE keyboardist who 'helped beat into shape' many of the group's recordings from its days with POLYDOR, UNITED ARTISTS and finally with ARISTA. 'Coffee' was with the band for over 12 years AND had a hand in finalizing the first lineup of the 'Drills back in 1969 whicj featured Bundie Cunac on bass and Charles Padre on drums. Basically, Mr. Cave wanted to 'retreat' from the road and concentrate on movie sound tracks to make his living, enjoying a fine run with his endearing friends of Mandrill. Though, another long time member, NEFTALIE SANTIAGO opted to stay on board as their 'dare-to be-different drummist, while at the same time, a few new fresh faces were enlisted along the way. This included their first AND only female keyboardist, in any Mandrill lineup, the lovely Japanese-born, MIKADO HILL. Guitar chores were handled by the graceously talented, CARLOS DE LA PASS. And as it was, Mandrill was good to go! According to middle brother Carlos Wilson, 'the album title, Energized, was appropriately named because of the way everyone felt about every single track on that record.' 'Most of it was hard driving funk that would have put Mandrill back on the 'fencewalk', if you know what I mean.' 'Montage' was very supportive of us at first, but that didn't last long as they folded up some 6 months later! 'The record wound up as the epitome of lost art!' And that was straight from a 'Mandrill's mouth' as they would say in the industry! SO...that was then, but this IS NOW! The good news is that Mandrill has purchased back the original masters and has plans to reissue those 7 songs on their own WILSON BROTHERS label. So what's the bad news, if you wanna call it that? What I have in my possession is the 'semi-official' remastered release of 'Energized' that has their last top 100 single, the electrifying 5 minute plus funk-a-thon classic, 'Put Your Money Where The Funk Is' and the popular West Coast Love Ballad, 'Starry Eyed on its shiny aluminum coating! The heavy melodic edge of the cd's other burners, 'Get It While Its Hot' and 'Wired For Love' will get you dancing madly backwards by the time each song finishes! But then you'll be begging for some mo', even after just ONE listen, as the music's intoxicating spell waves its smoked fingers to come here, come here! And for you 'early days' Mandrill enthusiasts, the final track 'Believe in You' is highly reminscint of the 'Composite Truth' and 'Just Outside the City' era, just enough to keep ya'll satisfied! As an added gratuity, several mo' fired up mixes of 'Put Your Money...' are included for your intense listening pleasure. So there you have it - something for everyone!

Mandrill - 1980 - Getting In The Mood

Mandrill 
1980
Getting In The Mood



01. When You Shake (4.13)
02. My Kind Of Girl (My Girl) (3.47)
03. Getting In The Mood (5.15)
04. Dance Of Love (5.05)
05. Feeling Good (3.06)
06. Love Made Me Over (4.52)
07. Lo Siento Mucho (I'm Very Sorry) (5.21)
08. Coming Home (5.51)

- Carlos Wilson / trombone, vocals
- Lou Wilson / trumpet, vocals
- Ric Wilson /sax, vocals
- Dougie Rodriguez / guitar
- Claude Coffee Cave / keyboards
- Fudgie Kae Solomon / bass
- Neftali Santiago / drums





Mandrill - 1978 - New Worlds

Mandrill 
1978
New Worlds




01. Too Late
02. Mean Streets
03. Having a Love Attack
04. Don't Stop
05. Third World Girl
06. Stay Tonite
07. When You Smile
08. It's So Easy Lovin' You

- Carlos Wilson / trombone, vocals
- Lou Wilson / trumpet, vocals
- Ric Wilson /sax, vocals
- Dougie Rodriguez / guitar
- Claude Coffee Cave / keyboards
- Fudgie Kae Solomon / bass
- Neftali Santiago / drums



Their second album for Arista, 1978's New Worlds was Mandrill's self-produced and updated plunge into more mainstream waters. Hoping, perhaps, to capitalize on some of the disco gold that propelled much lesser musicians to the top of the charts, many of the songs on New Worlds have an infectious groove and panache more suited to the dancefloor than to the fusion lounge inhabited by the band's longtime fans. And, even though the set is still smooth, slick, and fastidious, ultimately the album foundered because of the change. Both "Having a Love Attack" and "Don't Stop" became club staples, although any presence on the R&B charts totally eluded both singles. That honor was given to the jazzy and smoothly R&B flavored "Don't Stop." Just a little over three-and-a-half minutes long, the song was radio-friendly in both size and scope. Opening with a taste of the era's ubiquitous strings, and playing out like some soft soul hit, it may have scored the band a Top 40 R&B hit, but it soured with fans, who had come to expect so much more. However, that's not to say there aren't a few fine nuggets to be found as both "Mean Streets" and "Third World Girl" pick up the slack. By this late in the game, Mandrill had certainly lost some of their initial sizzle, while various members had come and gone, furthering the disintegration of the style that drove their early heyday. And, sadly, all this is reflected across New Worlds. It may have been part of a new era for the band, but sadly, for many, New Worlds was just tired.

Despite its "prog artwork" cover and hope-inducing album title, New Worlds was anything but proggy despite some tracks being technically impressive funk, but on the whole the album is a big deception for demanding music fans. Mandrill, like most other US "coloured groups" (can't really call them "black", since there are Latino/Puerto-Ricans in their ranks), they fell in the disco trap that engulfed many decent funk groups like Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang (listen to their early 70's stuff to see how proggy they were) and many others, they happily obliged to follow the example of Chic's mix of sometimes-excellent super-funk and downright disgusting binary-disco ala Donna Summer etc? The only groups resisting that trend was WAR and Clinton's Funkadelic.
Sure, there are remains of the former Mandrill with some (few) good tracks, (there is even one with a decent flute intervention) but the album is mostly filled of soul/Motown ballads (the opening Too Late & When You Smile) filled with those luscious Philadelphia-based string arrangements (instead of mellotrons), some ultra-funk but disco-ing tracks (Mean Streets, Love Attack & Stay Tonite) with typical horn section but often marred with an horrible binary disco beat (which is an oxymoron with good funk, if you ask me) and downright-awful straight disco tracks (Don't Stop & Easy Loving You). There is even a Latino/Bossa track (Third World Girl), but it only brings the listener to more regrets of what the group became.

When I speak of this binary rhythm, I am mostly thinking of the 1-2 tempos invented for the most hopeless and sorriest excuses of dancing white males to get them too boogie on a dance floor), but in Mandrill and Chic's case, this basic rhythm is often deceptively simple, because behind that beat is often a lot more complex rhythm than it appears at first glance:audition. In any case, certainly not Mandrill's best works, and better avoided unless you actually like the 70's disco scene.

Mandrill - 1977 - We Are One

Mandrill 
1977 
We Are One


01. Can You Get It (Suzie Caesar)
02. Funky Monkey
03. Happy Beat
04. Gilly Hines (In Memory Of Natalie Cerame)
05. Holiday
06. Closer Yo You
07. Love One Another
08. Don't Stop
09. Mean Streets
10. Third World Girl
11. It's So Easy Lovin' You
12. Stay Tonite


- Carlos Wilson / trombone, vocals
- Lou Wilson / trumpet, vocals
- Ric Wilson /sax, vocals
- Dougie Rodriguez / guitar
- Claude Coffee Cave / keyboards
- Fudgie Kae Solomon / bass
- Neftali Santiago / drums




The progressively based, Panamanian born, Brothers' Wilson of the band 'MANDRILL', literally re-wrote the boundries of the Latin Jazz Fusion Movment back in the early 70's. A closer listen to the group's music, starting from their spectacular debut in 1970, showed an incredible deep rich history that undoubtedly transcended all category definitions! Unfortunately, many of that era's aspiring and definitive performers had reluctantly thrown in the towel, due to the insurmountable pressures placed on them to stay on top of things and succeed, NO matter the costs involved! As for the members of Mandrill? They are most definetly an exception to the rule! The sheer determination of brothers - Ric Lou Carlos

and Wolf, by far and wide, have ALWAYS asserted a strong inclination toward instinct and wisdom, seeking the best from any challenging roads or unexpected situations enountered!

At one point in their career - the mid 70's - it was suggested numerous times to use a a hypnotic, pulsating 'disco beat'for their music. They were told "to get with the times, you got to go with what's selling, if you want to make any REAL money!" Instead of going with the flow, they let their conscious be their guide and played from the heart for what they felt and saw to be musically correct!!! In actuality, their latter day releases, were a real SOLID transition, progressing idealistically with the times, extracting the best of the 'Mandrill sensibilities', from their earliest signature discs such as 'Composite Truth' 'Mandrilland' and 'Just Outside of Town' and combining it with their strongest material to date. Ironically, as fate may have it, many devout followers of the band weren't too aware of their 'Arista period' and its 3 delightful releases, which spawned several singles including the hard-driving funk rave-up, 'Can You Get It (Suzy Caeser)'

But THAT's all changed now since the Wilson Brothers have secured the masters to those mighty fine releases. Many are going to be wondering, "where have I been all this time and didn't realize what was missed the first go round?"

This is a DEFINITE MUST FOR FANS WHO REALLY LOVE THE MUSIC OF SUCH A FINE FINE BAND!!!!! 'We Are One' is a classic from START TO FINISH, and to add 'more intrique to the plot, the listener gets the added BONUS of five extra tracks from their subsequent Arista extravaganza, 'New Worlds!' And for all you purists out there, all the instruments except for the strings and harp were EXCLUSIVELY performed by ALL the members of Mandrill!!! So where do we start - how's about the smash single, 'Suzy Caeser'where the group does a 'take' on Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Yeah, when these gentlemen access an influence, man, they sure know how to pick 'em! LHR were second to none in their field and its quite obvious the Wilson Brothers understood the importance of such magnetic 'vocal mentors' for their own music. Other highlights include the ragtime tinged, 'Happy Beat' featuring the highly gifted middle brother CARLOS, on five string banjo, which should get your toes a-tapping by the first few bars! Even the introspective and poignant 'Gilly Hines' with its somber lyrics, fits very nicely within this collection of twelve songs on this wonderfully packaged cd. Other knockouts from 'We Are One' are the sensously compelling, 'Closer to You' and the festive-like instrumental splash of 'Holiday' with its flowing 3 word chorus, "Come Away Holiday." Not to forget, the five extra helpings from 'New Worlds' previously mentioned, that very well stand the test of time, even by today's standards! 'Mean Streets' has a powerful message about growing up poor in the ghetto propelled by youngest brother WOLF on a planged-like Fender precison bass. 'Third World Girl' displays a nice mix of salsa and funk underscored by an English translation of sorts. 'Stay Tonite', a mid-tempo ballad, is a highly memorable toon embellished by a subtle groove of a 3/8 meter.

This remastered cd release is highly recommended - so whatcha waitin for! Go for what you know and get up and get out (and) put this one in your 'must play' cd section of your music library as soon as comes thru your front door!


In 1977 Mandrill showed signs of having listened to fusion and had more or less left the Latin rock behind. The African influences were also granted less room on their records, and if they still stuck out from the bulk of funk bands, the gap was slowly closing. We Are One starts with the two dance hits "Can You Get It" and "Funky Monkey," complete with inspired monkey screams. These are maybe the strongest tracks on the album, with great percussion work, fat basslines, and building horns. And ironically, in being just excellent funk numbers, they are also proof of Mandrill losing some of the creativity that made them different from most other funk bands. But if it is true that one won't find rumbling African drums or musical journeys through all Afro-American musical styles on this album, the rest of the songs do offer a banjo-esque guitar, a harmonica solo, and some distorted rock riffs, all uncommon in late-'70s funk. And even if some of the songs are a little tired, a tired Mandrill is more than just a another band trying to sound like Parliament.

Mandrill - 1976 - Beast From the East

Mandrill 
1976 
Beast From the East




01. Disco Lypso
02. Honey-Butt
03. Livin' It Up
04. Love Is Happiness
05. Ratchet (Como Se Va la Cosa)
06. Dirty Ole Man
07. Panama
08. Aqua-Magic
09. Synthia Song
10. Peaceful Atmosphere

- Carlos Wilson / trombone, vocals
- Lou Wilson / trumpet, vocals
- Ric Wilson / sax, vocals

Bass Guitar – Brian Allsop
Drums – Andre Locke
Electric Guitar [Additional Help] – Edmond Lee
Lead Guitar – Tommy Trujillo
Vocals [Special Thanks] – Julia Waters (tracks: A2), Maxine Waters (tracks: A2)
Vocals, Congas, Percussion – Wilfredo "Wolf" Wilson
Vocals, Organ, Piano [Acoustic], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Clavinet, Vibraphone [Vibes], Ensemble [String], Synthesizer [T.O.N.T.O.], Percussion, Written-By, Arranged By – Claude "Coffee" Cave



Like most progressive bands with roots in the late 60s and early 70s, Mandrill found themselves becoming increasingly commercial as the 70s wore on. Beast from the East is a fairly commercial album with a disco undertone, but to Mandrill's credit this album shows that they hadn't lost much in important areas such as instrumental and vocal skills, creativity, artistic integrity and the ability to put out great interesting music within a more confining commercial space. Groove music from this era was expected to have that steady disco kick drum thud on every downbeat, but Mandrill does a great job of turning to African highlife, Latin rock, Calypso, blaxploitation soundtracks and good old American hard funk to dress up this repetitious beat and keep it interesting.
At the very end of the album Mandrill gives us a taste of their more progressive past with two excellent instrumentals. Aqua Magic opens with cascading piano arpeggios from keyboard virtuoso Claude Cave, then the woodwinds break into an ancient melody before the band kicks into a hard Latin groove that rivals early Santana. A semi-classical keyboard section interrupts their rampage before the band is off again, this time topped by a jazzy dissonant flute solo. These guys can play! The album closes with a mournful space/lounge jazz tune with a cool 'futuristic' exotic synthesizer melody.

Although this album shows Mandrill heading further from their progressive roots, it is nice to hear that they were able to get with the thump-thump-thump 70s in a way that was creative, intelligent and not damaging to their artistic integrity. If you like IDM from the 70s, then you might dig this somewhat commercial, but very high quality effort from Mandrill.


Mandrill - 1975 - Solid

Mandrill 
1975 
Solid




01. Yucca Jump 3:33
02. Peck Ya Neck 3:41
03. Wind on Horseback 6:16
04. Tee Vee 4:58
05. Solid 7:49
06. Stop & Go 3:24
07. Silk 6:32

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




As Mandrill moved from the early 70s to the middle of the decade, their lengthy 'jazz odysseys' were being shortened a bit, but on Solid, Mandrill still presents a few lengthy compositions as well as their usual vast smorgasbord of styles including funk, Latin jazz, African soundtracks, 70s brass-rock, psychedelia and jazzy orchestrated soul music. Just as classic progressive rock bands began to decline in the mid-70s, a new generation of progressive funk and RnB bands such as Funkadelic and Earth Wind & Fire were having a revitalizing effect on Mandrill and many others as well. Some other bands you might hear influencing this album include Santana, War, Isaac Hayes, Chicago's 1st album and mid-70s Frank Zappa.
This really isn't 'prog-rock' per se, but I know a lot of you who get into 'proggy' funk and RnB, plus a big dose of proto-world beat jazzy fusion African rock could dig this really fun and never boring album that features one of the very best and most versatile bands ever. In an ongoing testament to their love of music and creativity in general

There aren't a whole lot of bands like Mandrill! Even in the days of War and Santana where the psychedelic stew and different latin styles were all merging together......this particular band was a standout. Mainly due to the heavy rootedness of their music. Throughout this 1975 album the band serve up a set of tunes that blend rather forboding,dark funk with surreal strings,harmonies and wah-wahs such as on the compelling "Wind On Horseback","Yucca Jump" and the title song. They really rock hard in a funky place (best term I could use-thanks Prince) on "Tee Vee",a song whose message and almost proto hip-hop groove predates the Disposable Heroes Of Hisprocrisy's "Television" by about fifteen years. There are also some hardcore grooves such as "Peck Ya Neck" and "Stop & Go". The final song "Slick" is pretty much an instrumental that takes on some very dynamic influences:from the cinematic soul popular with Isaac Hayes to this sort of afro cuban jazz sound. This is all a very potent reminder of the cross cultural politnation,from jazz to soul to pop that the golden age of funk represented and it's truly a disservice to music that this is not yet available on CD.


Mandrill - 1974 - Mandrilland

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.

Mandrill - 1973 - Just Outside of Town

Mandrill 
1973 
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.

Mandrill - 1973 - Composite Truth

Mandrill 
1973 
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.

Mandrill - 1972 - Mandrill Is

Mandrill 
1972 
Mandrill Is



01. Ape Is High
02. Cohelo
03. Git It All
04. Children Of The Sun
05. I Refuse To Smile
06. Universal Rhythms
07. Lord Of The Golden Baboon
08. Central Park
09. Kofijahm
10. Here Today Gone Tomorrow
11. The Sun Must Go Down

Claude Cave: Keyboards, Vocals
Fudgie Kae: Bass
Greg Mathieson: Piano
Omar Mesa: Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Charles Padro: Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Carlos Wilson: Saxophone, Vocals
Lou Wilson: Percussion, Trumpet, Vocals
Ric Wilson: Saxophone




Apparently learning from the mistakes of its debut, Mandrill crafted a follow-up with fewer stylistic detours than the first record, but much more energy and greater maturity. The two singles, "Ape Is High" and "Git It All," are unhinged performances from all involved that have the sense of musical invigoration so key to a funk band -- and so sorely lacking on this band's debut. "Children of the Sun" is a somber, flute-led piece, much more assured and better-conceived than anything on its first record (it also showed how well Mandrill could've done soundtracking a blaxploitation film). The guitars are much more prominent on Mandrill Is; in fact, both "Git It All" and "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" have passages almost reminiscent of metal's heavy riffing. The first two compositions from Claude "Coffee" Cave are big successes, "Cohelo" being a traditional Latin form and "Kofijahm" a tribal funk piece. Not everything works, however: the spoken-word piece "Universal Rhythms" is a tad over-ripe, with a raft of unpoetic, pseudo-mystical nonsense over backing from an angelic choir.

Mandrill’s first three albums were recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Their reputation as a “World Music Group” and “Champions for Peace” began with their self-titled debut album, which contained the epic composition titled “Peace and Love.”

This amazing suite was performed by the group accompanied by the Symphony of the New World, an 80-piece orchestra, and a 200-voice chorus to a Standing Room Only audience at Philharmonic Hall in New York City.

Their sophomore release Mandrill Is contained the single “Get It All” and the cosmic anthem “Ape is High.”  The third album, Composite Truth, released in 1973, propelled Mandrill’s popularity around the globe with their jam-heavy funk rhythms encapsulated in the song “Fencewalk.”  Their freewheeling approach influenced peers such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire and others.

 As their popularity grew, so did their appearances on all of the major music TV shows. Mandrill performed on both of Don Kirshner’s series, In Concert and Rock Concert.  On numerous occasions they appeared on Soul Train with Don Cornelius, Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack, Soul! with Ellis Haizlip and Like It Is with Gil Noble.

Mandrill - 1970 - Mandrill

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