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THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United States


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The Mandrake Memorial biography
THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL, formed by Craig Anderton (guitar, sitar, electronics), Michael Kac (keyboards), John Kevin Lally (drums) and Randy Monaco (bass, lead vocals) in 1967, were one of renowned Philadelphia-based rock bands along with THE NAZZ during the late 1960s. They got started performances mainly in The Trauma, produced by Manny Rubin as a new club located in the middle of Samson Street, where they eventually could attract notice of Poppy Records, an affiliated label of MGM. In the fall of 1967 they signed with Poppy Records and released three albums - 'The Mandrake Memorial' (1968), 'Medium' (1969), and 'Puzzle' (1970).

THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL were a short-lived outfit disbanded by Michael's withdrawal shortly before the last album 'Puzzle' released, but much influenced by 60s psychedelic rock or folk rock, and moreover blended with their unique originality such as Craig's epochmaking electronics or Michael's Rock-Si-Chord, their soundscape was worth calling a pioneer of Psychedelic Progressive Rock and Acid Folk.

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THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL discography


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THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.80 | 5 ratings
The Mandrake Memorial
1968
3.00 | 3 ratings
Medium
1969
3.35 | 9 ratings
Puzzle
1970

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THE MANDRAKE MEMORIAL Reviews


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 Medium by MANDRAKE MEMORIAL, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Medium
The Mandrake Memorial Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by JackFloyd

3 stars Sometimes it's good to be humbled, to give new cahnces, and to discover how you were wrong in the past. In a lifetime, there may be a record to polarise you and disgust you, only to prove you wrong the next time it's listened to: Medium is such a record for me.

The first time I heard Medium was in a transfer from the original vynil, with a sufferable sound quality and a volume so low it was almost impossible to listen to in an acceptable volume. Looking back to it, I regret not grabbing the CD release of this, because I finally realise what I missed.

While I still consider Puzzle a better record, Medium is nowhere near as bad as I originally judged, actually it is quite impressive, specially when compared to the first release, with darker textures, better-crafted melodies and more mature songwriting and instrument skill: long gone are songs like "Bird Journey" or "Dark Lady", the time has come to explore the sombre atmosphere of "To A Lonely" and "Strange", and this record has plentyful of it.

What I find interesting in Medium is Mandrake Memorial's ability to merge the psychedelia of the debut and the prog of Puzzle, at that, this is still a transitional record, but the transitions are better perceived when you can hear the actual songs.

Every single song here has something nice to offer, even the ones I once judged as dreadful: who could tell that "Last Number" had such a great hook, that "Barnaby Plum" has a charming flute atmosphere, or that "Cassandra" actually sounds alive and breathing? I couldn't, but now I'm glad I can. On a retrospective view, it was clear Michael Kac would last much longer, even if he matured with the rest of the band, his poppy style of singing and the already outdated Rock-Si-Chord weren't fit for MM's constantly complexer style. After Medium he left for good not to be replaced, leaving them as a trio.

P.S.: I left my original review untouched for further reference, so that I can kick myself for not getting it at first.

Original Review (1 Star): A transitional phase, gladly. Unfortunately, this was released, and with only three records in their discography, this is definitely not the place to start.

As much as it pains me to give this only one star, it is precisely what it deserves, because it is a record without any charm or interesting moments, just an endless collection of samey, twisted songs.

Here, The Mandrake Memorial is caught between the sort of music they did before with what they would do later, but not knowing what to do with any of them, resulting in an unsure, sub-par effort.

Some parts are quite good, like the demented "Smokescreen" or the haunting "Witness The End/Celebration", however, two songs and a fancy cover are not enough to save a whole record, and so, while the highlights are so few, stuff like "Barnaby Plum" or "Cassandra" can easily put you to sleep and the strangeness of "Snake Charmer" would be much better if the music wasn't so simplistic.

Alright, being as rare as this seems to be (or at least it used to), this could make a good item on a collection, but I'm still unconvinced that even hardcore fans could find something useful here with the exception of witnessing how Puzzle became a much better experiment than previously thought.

Well, at least this works as a good album to put on when you're having insomnia...

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 Puzzle by MANDRAKE MEMORIAL, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.35 | 9 ratings

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Puzzle
The Mandrake Memorial Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by JackFloyd

4 stars The Mandrake Memorial was a criminally underrated band capable of doing some pretty good music and, even though not a lot of people know them, giving some better-known bands a good run for their money.

The Puzzle is, in my opinion, their best record: a departure and, in the same time, union of the psychedelic atmosphere of their debut and progressive sound of their second, but while the former was a bit too simple and the latter was mainly tedious and directionless, there are great instances of innovation and brainstorming here, resulting in a record that's both interesting and mysterious.

From the opening soundscape of "Earthfriend Prelude" to the avant-gardist-in-guise melodic "Just A Blur (Version 3)", the interest and awe is kept with ease as pop songs and freak-out improvs are juxtaposed in a clever and fun way, also including occasional bursts of the pioneering electronic experimentation Craig Anderton would be known for, most specially on "Bucket Of Air".

It is not a flawless record, though: sometimes the electronics get too much in the way of the actual music and the overuse of church music borders on bad-taste filler, and yet, it can be mostly forgiven because such passages are actually very rare and everything is neatly arranged. Also worthy of note is the fact that this was recorded by a trio (Michael Kac having left as soon as the previous album was finished) consisting of Randy Monaco's powerful bass and relaxed voice, John Lally's drums, and Anderton's guitar and synth, however, the sound is actually quite charged and rich, due to the production but most specially because they also make good use of a real orchestra in some spots.

Reduced to a mere also-ran status nowadays, Mandrake Memorial was much more than just another psychedelic band, it was a band capable of holding on it's own without owing much to anybody else, and The Puzzle alone proves it.

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 Puzzle by MANDRAKE MEMORIAL, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.35 | 9 ratings

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Puzzle
The Mandrake Memorial Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Moderator / Psych / Avant / Neo Teams

3 stars As honestly I say, this album is too difficult for me to digest up.

Such a challenging album "Puzzle" gets started with mellow and lyrical string sounds sent out by Craig's electronics. This beginning of Earthfriend Prelude ~ Earthfriend can always excite listeners with palpitation. Exactly a magnificent view of sound constructed by a graceful guitar, slow but steady drums, beautiful electronics, and enthusiastic Randy's voices, we can meet. On the contrary, very fascinating are Craig's acoustic guitar and plaintive electric piano sound in Just A Blur ~ Hiding suite ... each instrument or voice is very cozy and delightful for us. Yes, their soundscape can directly immerse into our mind space. Randy's passion cannot stop even in the next track Tedpole ... as if his voices can erase other primitive instrumental roles. No, no, Craig cannot lose ... Kyrie and Ocean's Daughter are his tracks, absolutely full of psychedelically echoic sound shower by his ingenious electronic machine gun. We can call the former part of this album "The Comfort Zone", can't we?

Atmosphere should be altered anytime ... Volcano Prelude ~ Volcano with whacked warped sounds is another world. Persistently scattered sound magma pop from Volcano, we imagine? This part can be thought as the most experimental and challenging one. With an angel share named Whisper Play thrown into the middle, a Space Rock-flavoured strict song Bucket Of Air comes here. Keen frozen air-like electronic sounds and sticky drumming are a bit exaggerated at least for me indeed ... but please understand their inner space, or their close-to-the-edge shouts shortly before disbandment? This dangerous situation might appear the next song Children's Prayer - somehow guess not prayer of children but shouts on their mind. Yup therefore Puzzle the poppy song is a bit puzzling, like as scattered pieces of a puzzle in the end. Even the last track Just A Blur (Version 3), such a quiet ending, should let us imagine not safe & sound but vacancy of mind.

Suppose they wanted to notify us their extremely altered state of inner space? Very tough to understand.

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