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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Mashmakhan's The Family is a fairly different album than its predecessor, but it remains typically Mashmakhan-like in terms of sound, despite longer tracks. With a superb winter landscape as artwork, this second album confirms the group's talent (unchanged line-up) would also be their last album, despite a few posterior singles and many line-up changes and eventually folding by the end of 73.

Starting with the excellent Children Of The Sun (not a cover), where SÚnÚcal's organ and flute are the dominating instruments, the album features the group's instrumental chops The Family and The Prince are two unusual tracks, the former sounding like Neill Young crashing into CS&N, while the latter starts out a bit goofy, but has a stunning instrumental mid- section, before returning to its chorus-verse canvas. Come Again is a sax-driven track and it' is too bad it ends in a fade-out, because I think their extended version held some more cool chops on the sax. A cool Children Laughing follows. After a short Couldn't Find The Sun, the album ends on Start All Over, which ended up in the singles chart as their second-betst hit.

A much "proggier" album than its debut, The Family fais to confirm the high hopes that we had for them after the first effort, and unfortunately it also spelled as the debut of the end, an end that would lasts over two years with further singles attempts and line-up changes. Again, close nut no cigar.

Report this review (#263904)
Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars The second and final Mashmakhan album was clearly an attempt at something more commercial than their first outing. The result was a more balanced and even collection of songs, but unfortunately for progressive music fans it’s also an album that lacks any real musical innovation or panache.

The two most noticeable differences from the band’s self-titled debut are the vocals and lyrics. In the case of the vocals there are fewer instances here of harmonized background singing and more emphasis on bassist Brian Edwards’ voice, and for the most part both of these were poorly thought-out decisions by the band as far as results are concerned. Edwards isn’t really much of a singer and he is challenged by range several times on the record, failing to meet that challenge in nearly every case. He isn’t much of a bass player either, and in all I’m not sure his presence on the album adds to it a whole lot. He also seems to affect a sort of faux strained-rock-star-singer thing in a few places which doesn’t fit with either the music or the lyrics. Sorry Brian – I’m sure you’re a nice guy.

The other slight annoyance is with the lyrics on just about every track, but especially with “Come Again” and the title track. Back around the time this album was released there seemed to be a prevailing attitude by musicians and even many fans that the music was more important than the lyrics (many would argue the same today). As a result those who were very interested in what the band actually had to say were frequently disappointed. Add to that the a predilection for recreational stimulants that was also prevalent at the time (and the band is named for a drug after all), and the words you’re left with often sound today like the mildly poetic ramblings of a hopped-up guitarist trying to channel everything he learned in high-school literature class into the next ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Which is probably an accurate description of what’s going on here.

The overall mood of the songs on this album (considering the tempos, lyrics and timbre of most of the tracks) is Wishbone Ash’s ‘Argus’. The problem of course is that there’s only one guitar here, weak bass and not much of the confident swagger that album exudes.

There aren’t really any songs worth calling out, none of them are all that memorable. Unfortunately the best song on the album (“The Trees”) is missing from the CD reissue, which is about the only release of this record you’re likely to find anywhere. I assume that track was left off the CD since the reissue combines the band’s first two albums and this is a ten-minute song that would have put the overall length at more than 80 minutes. I suspect the track was filler on the original album, since the band really seemed to be reaching for material at the time and this is a closing track that stretches out the solos and mixes in haphazard tempo changes and transitions that tend to add grooves to a record’s surface but not much to its substance. The slow, organ-heavy opening whets the prog- music fan’s appetite in anticipation of something really grandiloquent; unfortunately the band doesn’t deliver, but the lengthy instrumental passages (pretty much all guitar and organ) are better than anything else on the record. Were in not for the ever-annoying fadeout ending I’d almost add another star just for this song.

In the end this is a collector’s piece and not much more. The band was riding a brief one- hit wonder wave of popularity at the time this released, especially in Canada and Japan. But this album failed to move the needle for them commercially, nor did the lengthy supporting tour, and the group would disband less than two years later. I can’t give this more than two stars or a recommendation, but if you are even slightly interested in the band you can hear this record anyway by picking up the CD reissue; if you do, check out their debut on the same CD since that one is a fair bit better. As far as “The Trees” I’ve found numerous places on-line where you can stream the song from a podcast or music review site. Two stars.


Report this review (#271605)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2010 | Review Permalink

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