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Mandalaband - Mandalaband [Aka: Mandalaband I] CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.63 | 82 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Mandalaband were a progressive rock project formed in 1974 by David Rohl, who wrote, arranged, mixed and produced their material. Their self-titled debut a year later, a concept album based around Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetans' resistance to the Chinese invasion in the 1950's, had a rather controversial history, mainly due to the removal of founder Rohl by the Crysalis Records label as producer/mixer at the time. The musicians brought together for the project recorded David's compositions as well as additional songs in the same theme, but it was only a last minute decision due to the dissatisfaction of the production that Rohl was brought back in to salvage the recordings. In this case, the decision proved to be a masterstroke, as Rohl clearly had the golden touch that makes `Mandalaband' a truly superb symphonic work loaded with incredible playing, superior vocal performances and classy arrangements - without forgetting to rock out with the best of them constantly as well!

`Mandalaband' is comprised of one long multi-part continuous suite and four shorter pieces, most with frequent lengthy instrumental stretches combining classical, theatrical and symphonic styles. On side A's opening four part twenty-minute side-long work `Om Mani Padme Hum', Renaissance, with John Stimpson's constant upfront coursing bass and Vic Emerson's ravishing piano, and the Rick Wakeman solo works are constant reference points, especially the latter with David Durant's occasionally stuffy yet ambitious vocals and extravagant male/female choral arrangements that burst forth and a final pompous blast of Moog fanfare over a stirring choir. It's a frequently uplifting epic of top-notch instrumental prowess, snappy time-changes and wild soloing, with Tony Cresswell's powerhouse drumming an absolute standout.

What a blast of energy to kick off the second side! `Determination' is a heavy delirious all-out grooving up-tempo rocker with endless red-hot wailing guitar soloing from Ashley Mulford and thick pulsing bass, and with little traces of Greenslade and the Alan Parsons Project , the track works better thanks to a sole lead-vocal from David that ditches the choirs. `Song for a King' brings back the symphonic pomp with a pleasing tune, whimsical synth themes and romantic lead guitars that almost wouldn't have sounded out of place on the early Camel and Caravan albums. `Roof of the World' sounds like an Arthur Brown outtake and is another wilder, dramatic rocker with relentless galloping drumming and break-neck guitar runs, and introspective album closer `Looking In' delivers dreamy electric piano, a sympathetic sobering vocal and carefully implemented jazz/fusion/funk elements before a final burst of power in the closing minute.

Despite brief elements that are rather dated and a little cringe-worthy, the incredible instrumental playing, elegant pomp, strong melodies and ambitious arrangements of `Mandalaband' are all hugely impressive, and much of the album is simply a great and diverse Seventies rock album at heart. Beyond the bluster and frequent bombast is some respectable song-writing, and there's probably never been a symphonic prog album as wild and ballistic as this one, which makes it an intriguing title to investigate!

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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