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




Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 91 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I got kind of interested in this band when I was working on a short bio for them a while back, and particularly in this album since it represents the purer form of the band’s music from a progressive point of view (kind of like comparing the first and third Captain Beyond albums, if you’re familiar with those).

This is a bit of an unusual piece of work, and the two sides are rather different. The first side-length track is “Om Mani Padme Hum”, that phrase being some sort of Buddhist mantra whose full meaning is a bit more complex than I care to try and decipher. The song (and the album, I gather) is supposed to represent a tribute of sorts to the struggle against occupation by the Tibetan people, a popular cause of musicians in the earlier seventies. The track is divided into four movements, and is full of gorgeous harmonic vocals and synth strings, as well as some pretty intricate guitar work by a very young Ashley Mulford (Sad Cafė, Mike & the Mechanics). While the overall sound is a bit dated, the recording quality is surprisingly good for the time period, and the arrangements make for an enjoyable listen, although the message in the lyrics is kind of secondary to the music.

The reverse of the album consists of four shorter tracks, and a wider range of styles. “Determination” starts off with some discordant guitar and timpani, while singer David Durant sounds a bit like Gregg Rolie from the early Journey albums. The guitars and keyboards here are more typical of early seventies psychedelic music than the opening track, engaging enough but not particularly memorable.

“Song for a King” sounds closer to late sixties folk rock than symphonic, with acoustic guitar and simpler keyboard arrangements, and Durant waxing philosophical in a throaty tenor.

On “Root of the World” Mulford kicks up some blues-inspired licks not unlike the first couple Spirit albums, with Durant clamoring on about those brave Tibetan peasants suffering atrocities at the hands of their occupiers. The lyrics are a bit hard to follow, but like the rest of the album the guitars and keyboards give life to an otherwise tepid tune.

The closing track is the languid “Looking In”, an introspective outsider-looking-in melancholic yet hopeful tale of rebirth from despair. While the keyboards are pleasing enough, the message is a bit preachy and not all that believable coming from a group of middle-class Brits. The ‘reborn’ part breathes some life into the ending with Mulford offering up a sprightly guitar ending, but the end itself is rather anticlimactic.

I have to say that the effort of finding a copy of this rather obscure recording was a bit more interesting than the music itself. The second and final album released under the name Mandalaband is easy to find, but my understanding is that one is more of an all- star lineup that was originally supposed to be one of a trilogy of Tolkienish recordings. The other two were never completed.

This is a worthwhile investment for the curious collector, but don’t expect to be blown away or anything by the music. It’s a nice snapshot of an ambitious project that never really amounted to much, unless you count the more mainstream music of Sad Cafė that most of the lineup went on to form. Three stars for its novelty and dated charm, but no more than that.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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