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Mandrill - Mandrill CD (album) cover

MANDRILL

Mandrill

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.05 | 12 ratings

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PROGMAN1
5 stars According to the liner notes, this album was recorded in the winter of 1970. This is fairly astounding given the fact that it would make this one of the earliest (if not the first ever) incidence of a side-long, multi-movement, progressive rock suite. The piece in question being side two's Peace and Love (Amani Na Mapenzi) clocking in at over seventeen minutes. As for what it sounds like, it is quite advanced for 1970 to be sure, including many styles of music from symphonic to African to jazz to Latin, even a touch of the avant-garde and Mellotron! As mentioned in previous reviews, the sparse lyrics are a powerful Vietnam war-era statement of biblical proportions. To be sure, the band's general approach was not of side-long symphonic rock suites, though on later albums it was not unusual for them to use odd time signatures and compose long-ish multi-movement rock pieces. The prog fan will find at least one piece on each of their first 5 albums to satisfy that prog itch. Given the date of this, their debut album, and the phenomenal side long suite, this is a solid 4.5 stars leaning toward 5. Side one opens with the eponymous rocker Mandrill, a Latin rock scorcher as great as Santana ever composed. The side is rounded out with Warning Blues, Symphonic Revolution and Rollin' On. Warning Blues is mainly an up-tempo blues rock piece with interesting breaks but fairly typical of the era. Symphonic Revolution is a mellow piece with excellent, atmospheric flute and organ playing by Carlos Wilson and Claude Cave respectively. These two musicians are quite exceptional but then the strength of Mandrill lies in the skill of all the musicians.

The guitarist, Omar Mesa is truly unsung and embodies the lyricism and feel of the most elite guitarists of the prog era. Yes, he is that great. The three brothers who play the wind instruments rival the best horn sections of the era including Tower of Power, Chicago and B, S & T. The rhythm section of Neftali Santiago and Fudgie Kae which eventually became the classic rhythm section of Mandrill are phenomenally tight through the acrobatic, complex unison lines and rhythmic changes occurring in many of their songs. All things considered; even though Mandrill are not a typical prog band like Yes or Genesis, there is plenty of fantastic music, some of which is prog, for the exquisite enjoyment of the eclectic prog fan.

PROGMAN1 | 5/5 |

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