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

Just a normal psych-prog rock album of the times, Mashmakhan's debut had the chance to have one of that year's better hit single in its track list. But the problem of a 45 RPM is that it doesn't allow much to know an artist and in some ways, it's too bad that the group didn't sell as many albums as they did singles. This self-titled psych-prog debut album is aiming at Floyd's early days, especially in the front artwork's weird (un-)focused picture, but the musical content showed a certain amount of progressive moods through the album. The organ-driven group may have you think of Morse Code Transmission's and sometimes bears the same kind of "faute de gout" (over-arranged) and sounds very 60's-ish and sometimes pop.

But there is more to this album than As The Years Go By: there are plenty of excellent other tracks including the opening Days When We Are Free and its follow-up I know I've Been Wrong, where Blake's guitar pull some great histrionics and you will find more in Afraid Of Losing You. Musically we are between Morse Code Transmission debut album and the great SRC debut album, some Floyd-Beatles touches. The flute-driven Gladwin is certainly the first side's highlight, as in the chorus SÚnÚcal dubs a sax, but the flute shines like thousand suns.

The flipside opens on the early Colosseum-like If I Tried, but the following soul-inspired Happy is again over-produced. But there are a few stinkers on this album, such as the string over-loaded Shades Of Loneliness (they sound as cheesy and corny as BS&T) or to a lesser extent Nature's Love Song (still has moments, notably a cool flute solo), but aren't we glad the closing Letter From Zambia shows much promise for their next album. Indeed there is a slight African theme and a percussion break, just the length you needed it.

While I wouldn't call their debut essential in regards to the site's overall scope, if you're into Canadian psych-prog, then Mashmakhan's debut does have its historical importance, and this writer is always a bit partial to groundbreakers, so it gets a "close but no cigar" rating

Report this review (#263903)
Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Mashmakhan is a decent album from a decent band that represents fairly well a sound that was en vogue as the sixties waned, but that hasn’t aged particularly well in the ensuing years. The band of the same name would go on to release another record and several singles, but in terms of both commercial and artistic achievement this is probably as good as things would get for Mashmakhan.

The thing that interests most about these guys is how long they managed to stay together. The band dates to 1960 in Montreal as the Phantoms, presumably a pop group about whom little information survives today. The same lineup would finally ink a deal with Columbia nearly a decade later, and would record two studio albums and numerous singles before drummer Jerry Mercer drifted off to join April Wine and the band broke up altogether shortly thereafter.

The music is a mixed bag although there is a clear psych vibe, particularly with Rayburn Blake’s guitar and (to a lesser extent) Pierre SÚnÚcal’s stilting organ work. SÚnÚcal also wrote all the songs on the album, plays guitar, and is credited with various woodwinds (although mostly flute as near as I can tell). Speaking of which, the flute was still a fairly novel instrument for rock bands in 1970 so the group deserves some acknowledgement for that fresh (at the time) approach.

The one hit on the album, and really for the band as a whole was “As the Years Go By”, a three minute driving number spiced up with bouncy organ and harmonizing choral vocals but really not much more than a sentimental, radio-friendly pop tune. That single sold gold in the U.S., and apparently struck a real chord in Japan where it went platinum and made the band (briefly) one of the biggest acts in that country.

From a progressive music perspective the pickings are lean, but there are some noteworthy tracks. The opening “Days When We Are Free” is a full-fledged soft psych number complete with wailing and slightly-fuzzed guitar, brooding organ and a lazy pace recalling much of the late sixties West Coast scene. I believe this was also released as a single but didn’t chart although it probably should have, and I’m sure it was a crowd- pleaser in concert. And the closing “Letter From Zambia” combines layers of earthy ethnic percussion with what sounds like both electric and acoustic piano for an instrumental that takes a bit of time to pick up steam, but which finally morphs into a wailing guitar passage before slowly winding down amidst a bevy of hand-drums and then a mellow flute fadeout. If nothing else I have to say this is likely the only song I’ve ever heard with a fadeout ending featuring a flute, so props to the band for thinking that up.

“Afraid of Loving You” includes a pretty decent guitar solo that sounds like it was probably improvised in the studio, and “Gladwin” (another failed single) has the most prominent use of flute on the album but is otherwise unremarkable. “If I Tried” is basically a jam session with somewhat awkward story-telling vocals, and “Happy You Should Be” runs the risk of wandering into lounge-act territory for what has to be considered the weakest track on the album, although “Nature’s Love Song” isn’t much different or better.

You won’t likely find a copy of the original album, which was never reissued as far as I know. But there is a compilation CD containing both their studio albums on the Collectables label that is available.

This isn’t really a very memorable album, but the first time I heard it I mentally placed it in the same general range as the first Gypsy album. Not sure why because the two bands have little in common, but the mental connection persists as I write this so there must be something to it. I rated that album with four stars, but it was a two-disk set while this one isn’t so I’ll go with three stars for Mashmakhan and a solid recommendation for fans of late- sixties pop psych with nominal folk influences.


Report this review (#271562)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars An unknown band for most of us, but Neil Peart gave them a good write up in his Travelling Music book and I picked up their 2 for 1 CD for a couple of pennies of sheer curiosity. Neil Peart wrote about them because one of his first gigs with Rush was on the same bill as Mashmakhan. Rush were warming up for them as Mashmakhan were a hit single band with As The Years Go By. A very big hit for this band.

This is the debut album from Mashmakhan. A band who back then were playing psychedelic/space rock stained rock/pop like most bands from that time were playing. It was the hit sound at that time. The hammond organ sound is strong and they are also dabbling with some sax, flute and guitars too. The vocals are superb too.

The sound and music is by all means dated and the hit song here As The Years Go By sounds very dated. This music has not by any means aged as well as Beatles timeless music. But this is still a very charming album and the music is good. The best song is As The Years Go By and the rest of the album also ticks over nicely. This is by no means a great album. But it is recommended to fans of this sound and this period of time. This album is by all means frozen in time.

3 stars

Report this review (#597405)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2011 | Review Permalink

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