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



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5 stars From the first notes/tones you can hear that this is NOT an ordinairy album. a wonderfull theme arises...and the superb vocals of David Durant (who he?) soars abowe the fantastic song that is the first theme into:"Om Mani Padme Hum" a suite in 4 movements (build over the Tibetan national anthem) a matter of fact you feel quite uplifted after hearing this. Second movement...begins with a piano intro, that could be out of an ELP record. It soon slides into time changes...a la..(yes ..right you are.. ELP)...jazzy but stilll prog ...this is an amazing achievement...blending soft melodys (song) and outbursts of brilliant music....this has to be the most fabulous thing since (before??) The Enid !!?? As the music.....instrumental that is, is rather close to that of (R.J.Godfreys)Enid!! Who came first?? As i remember Robert John Godfrey were conducting/arranging string music for Barclay James Harvest at that time!!?? Enuff already...this is by far the most interesting.....piece of music from that era.. sadly long forgotten...but now...its here....all you prog freaks out there. This is a G E M ...and it is not to be ignored!!! Do yourself a favour...find wont regret it!!!! Five stars? OOhhh YES !!!
Report this review (#28526)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This mythic & heroic progressive rock album is surprisingly excellent! On side 1, It has TONS of BEAUTIFUL, poignant, intense and religious male & female choir parts. The heroic floating and symphonic keyboards are quite intense and anthemic. The keyboards and choir clearly remind Rick Wakeman's work in the 70's. The omnipresent electric guitar sometimes sounds like Steve Hackett's one of the Genesis' "Selling England by the pound" album. There are a few weird psychedelic parts, but fortunately they do not last for a long time.

On side 1, The OUTSTANDING & epic "Om mani padme hum" contains impressive jazzy piano parts a la Keith Emerson or Eddie Jobson; there is a brilliant, exciting & melodic tubular bells part; the symphonic & anthemic keyboards are just memorable. The electric guitar near the end, despite its hard rock tendency, does not kill the grandeur of this long track.

The other side is different and less good. The tracks are shorter and they often have a more straightforward loaded rock/hard rock tendency, without the flamboyant choirs and keyboards present on the first side. "Determination" contains dirty rhythmic organs, wah- wah hard rock electric guitars and fast & complex drums, a bit like on the first Camel's album. "Song for a king" is more like the first side: the beautiful and melodic track is absolutely memorable with the catchy and addictive lead vocals, refined keyboards arrangements and Hackett-like guitar solos. The very good "Roof of the world" takes a rather fast and aggressive mood: it has fast and restless drums, hard rock guitar solos, floating mellotron and catchy lead vocals: there is again a mythic & heroic mood present on this track. The last track has mellow Fender Rhodes notes: combined with the tender voice, it reminds me the Gentle Giant's "Aspirations" track.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#28530)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Funny that I don't really like this one for I am usually attracted to Tibet-related topics but this fails to captivate me. Maybe , it was this jump on the bandwagon of Tibet that displeased me at the times , because I discovered this as it came out, this had an artificial flavour to it. Also the fact that I am ferociously non-religious (not anti-religious) did not help this in my perception.
Report this review (#28527)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album released in 1975 "Mandalaband". It is a minority nation invasion by the large country that the cloth of the jacket symbolizes. It is a theme of this work to indict an arrogant act of this large country. Everything is carried out from masterpiece "Om Mani Padme Hum" to the other 4 works by this theme. It symphonic rock to the sound including Corral and the string music orchestra. The studio musician who has an excellent technique is doing a magnificent, wonderful performance.
Report this review (#44077)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my favourite albums ever. It`s hard to believe why Mandalaband released only two albums. If this album contained only Om Mani Padme Hum, it still would be a masterpiece of progressive music deserving 5 stars, but there are other extraordinary songs which make this album essential. David Durant (lead vocal) has a wonderfoul voice. Even Luciano Pavarotti wouldn`t be shamed such a nice voice. David doesn`t sing alone, he is supported by The London Chorale. Not only singer is amazing but also othes musicians make a very good work. Tony Cresswell plays his drums perfect and Vic Emerson is like a whole orchiestra. Ashley Mulford`s guitar is very rocky, his solos are simply outstanding. In some moments (Om Mani Padme Hum part 2 and 3) makes me think of wedding party:-) Do you agree? I love it. This album is the best example of progressive symphonic rock. This one of the wonders of this World is of course highly recommended.
Report this review (#48748)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
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.


Report this review (#102867)
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mandalaband and this album, together with The eye of Vendor, is two very heavy works in the music history.I have strong memories of this time and this kind of special melodic and synfonic sound. It's happiness and love and hope for the future, that never came .Mandalaband is like nothing else made before or after, a special symfonic and very intellegent symfony that will take you to the deep inside of yourself, if you understand it, and give it a try. The mid seventies is cought from a special point of view, , and I was a part of that time..... Thanks Mandalaband!!
Report this review (#146952)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to say that I have a mixed feeling about this album.

One the one hand there are sublime instrumental passages but almost at the same time some weak vocals are drastically dragging this work on the lower site. One thing is for sure: you should listen further than the opening track to get the whole picture.

This intro piece might lead you on the wrong side of their music. It is indeed pretty much symphonic, and I like it as such but it might remind you too much of all the pomposity of an ELP.

Although this is a characteristics that is present on later tracks, it shouldn't overshadow the whole; which is rather pleasant and holds some brave guitar breaks as well like during the fourth movement of the epic ''Om Mani Padme Hum''. A very fine way to close this 20 minutes + track.

I would say that the other songs are not so convincing: more hard-rock or psyche oriented, they might hurt some prog ears but I don't complain. These sounds have filled my teenage days, after all.

Three stars.

Report this review (#216009)
Posted Friday, May 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a strange album from a strange band. Well, most prog rock bands are strange. But this band is specially strange. Or is it a project ? Well, read the biography and decide yourself.

The opening track is a symphony of some sorts in four movements. The similarities to ELP is duly noted. The addition of a choir adds texture to the music. There are some interesting bombastic orchestra parts in this symphony. But it is also layered with heavy prog, AOR and filmmusic too. This is the best track on this album.

The second song is pretty influenced by KING CRIMSON and rock music. It is straight forward AOR rock and nothing much else. The third song Song For A King is heavily influenced by CARAVAN. Roof Of The World has some SAGA influences and is pretty commercial AOR. Did they get a number one hit with this one ? Nope, but I am pretty sure it was not for the lack of trying. The final song Looking In is melancholic and pretty similar to what MANNING did twenty-five years later. Although Looking In is more AOR than Guy's songs.

So, that's my interpetation of what I have heard. This album touches most bases. The music include strong elements of symphonic prog, heavy prog, hard-rock, AOR, film-music and space rock. Even jazz has been integrated here. The use of electric guitars are pretty dense. Which makes it a bit hard-edged album. The vocals is pretty good. The use of orchestra makes this album pretty dated. The sound is OK though.

ELP is being mentioned as a reference. I only agree to a certain degree. But it is not an ELP clone by any means. The problem with this album is that it tries to be everything to everyone. AOR and symphonic prog is not good bedfellows, in my view. AOR dominates too much and it makes it a bit of a turn off for me. As a concept, this album is not a concept if you understand me. It is everything to everyone and it therefore looses it's focus.

There are some good songs here. Well, all of them are good in their own right. Some of the music is also a bit dull and dated. But it is not a bad album by any means. It is an album worth checking out.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#219655)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Free Tibet!

This debut album is by far the best of Mandalaband's three albums and (presumably) the sole reason that they are listed as Symphonic Prog. This album is also the only album on which Mandalaband is really a band; on the subsequent two albums they were more of a 'project' led by David Rohl (similar in structure to the Alan Parsons Project). But just like the subsequent two albums, this debut is similarly conceptual or thematic and the theme or concept this first time around was about Tibet.

It was quite hard for me to find this album, but I finally managed to find it on vinyl LP and I transferred it to my computer. I have subsequently tracked down a version of Mandalaband II on CD which contains the four-movement suite Om Mani Padme Hum as a bonus track. On the vinyl album this largely instrumental epic named after a Buddhist mantra and with occasional vocals in an unknown (to me) language takes up the first half while the second half is left to shorter and more direct songs sung in English. The sound of this album is quite unique, but bands and artists such as Focus (think Hamburger Concerto), Mike Oldfield, Caravan, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Beggar's Opera readily come to mind. While none of these references are quite able to fully capture the multifaceted nature of Mandalaband, this album will appeal to fans of classic Symphonic Prog.

After the rather gentle epic, the second side speeds things up considerably with the heavy Determination. This song has a very Yes-like (think Roundabout) bass and keyboard approach. This is probably my favourite track of the album. Song For A King is more Camel/Caravan-like, a nice melodic tune. Roof Of The World once again picks up the tempo a bit and this one reminds me a bit of Beggar's Opera or possibly Arthur Brown. Looking In is another Caravan-like, slightly jazzier piece that closes this album in fine fashion.

All three albums by Mandalaband are worth having, but this is definitely the one to go for first.

Report this review (#290622)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I must confess I was a little skeptical at first about the potential of this project. A concept album about China´s domination of Tibet? It sounded like one of those records where the cause debated is quite noble but the musical side takes a back seat on it. Besides I never heard of these musicians before. Nor about their creator, composer and producer David Rohl. And the ratings here varied wildly. However, I decided to take a chance on it and I was rewarded by getting a true 70´s jewel!

Side one consists entirely of the epic Om Mani Padme Hum, divided in four parts (or movements). The vocals are sung in tibetian and, believe it or not, they worked brilliantly. Musically this is symphonic rock at its best, with some fiery guitar solos, soaring choirs and wonderful keyboards. Nothing really groundbreaking of course, fairly common stuff of the time in fact, but excellent anyway. The instrumental part of this work reminded me of works by artists like Rick Wakeman and Renaissance were doing then, while the orchestrations bring up memories of Burt Bacharach´s arrangements he had done on the film Lost Horizon (1972). Some eastern sounds and rhythms are evident too, but not too much.

Side two is made up of four independent short songs, all still dealing with the main theme of the invasion and dominance of Tibet. But those tunes tend towards a less symphonic and more prog rock approach. Here we have english vocals and again nice guitars and swirling Hammond organs. All good ones, by the way. I really liked David Durant´s versatile vocals and the terrific musicanship of all involved. Production is ok for the time and there is not a single note wasted throughout the record. I guess the highlight of this album is the epic Om Mani Padme Hum, but the rocking side two is also quite powerful too.

Conclusion: one of the best obscure concept albums I found in many years, if not the best. Inspired, melodic, bombastic and very well done. I was tempted to give it a five star rating, but I think a 4.5 one is more fitting. If you´re into great symphonic works of the 70´s you can´t miss this one. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#383562)
Posted Thursday, January 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is a tough album to judge. The musicians are absolutely superb. Particularly I find Vic Emerson's keyboards and Tony Cresswell's drums to be up to par with many better known prog performances. But the compositions rarely do them justice.

The album is essentially two parts. The first half is a four part suite called Om Mani Padme Hum. This is a bombastic somewhat symphonic work, that relies heavily on orchestral and choral arrangements. There are some nice passages, but much of it sounds like it was recorded in a vast cavern, giving it a mushy sound. And while compositionally, the music is fairly good, it is spoiled by overly theatrical vocals.

The second half consists of four slightly proggy tracks, that have a sound that reminds me a bit of early Yes, or possibly Flash. Unfortunately, these songs also have the overbearing vocals, which happen to be singing unbearably naive lyrics, all pertaining to Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

There is some intrinsic value to the album, based mostly on the instrumental performances. But I can't give it any more than three stars.

Report this review (#925273)
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mandalaband were a progressive rock project formed in 1974 by David Rohl, who wrote, arranged, mixed and produced their material. Their self-titled debut a year later, a concept album based around Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetans' resistance to the Chinese invasion in the 1950's, had a rather controversial history, mainly due to the removal of founder Rohl by the Crysalis Records label as producer/mixer at the time. The musicians brought together for the project recorded David's compositions as well as additional songs in the same theme, but it was only a last minute decision due to the dissatisfaction of the production that Rohl was brought back in to salvage the recordings. In this case, the decision proved to be a masterstroke, as Rohl clearly had the golden touch that makes `Mandalaband' a truly superb symphonic work loaded with incredible playing, superior vocal performances and classy arrangements - without forgetting to rock out with the best of them constantly as well!

`Mandalaband' is comprised of one long multi-part continuous suite and four shorter pieces, most with frequent lengthy instrumental stretches combining classical, theatrical and symphonic styles. On side A's opening four part twenty-minute side-long work `Om Mani Padme Hum', Renaissance, with John Stimpson's constant upfront coursing bass and Vic Emerson's ravishing piano, and the Rick Wakeman solo works are constant reference points, especially the latter with David Durant's occasionally stuffy yet ambitious vocals and extravagant male/female choral arrangements that burst forth and a final pompous blast of Moog fanfare over a stirring choir. It's a frequently uplifting epic of top-notch instrumental prowess, snappy time-changes and wild soloing, with Tony Cresswell's powerhouse drumming an absolute standout.

What a blast of energy to kick off the second side! `Determination' is a heavy delirious all-out grooving up-tempo rocker with endless red-hot wailing guitar soloing from Ashley Mulford and thick pulsing bass, and with little traces of Greenslade and the Alan Parsons Project , the track works better thanks to a sole lead-vocal from David that ditches the choirs. `Song for a King' brings back the symphonic pomp with a pleasing tune, whimsical synth themes and romantic lead guitars that almost wouldn't have sounded out of place on the early Camel and Caravan albums. `Roof of the World' sounds like an Arthur Brown outtake and is another wilder, dramatic rocker with relentless galloping drumming and break-neck guitar runs, and introspective album closer `Looking In' delivers dreamy electric piano, a sympathetic sobering vocal and carefully implemented jazz/fusion/funk elements before a final burst of power in the closing minute.

Despite brief elements that are rather dated and a little cringe-worthy, the incredible instrumental playing, elegant pomp, strong melodies and ambitious arrangements of `Mandalaband' are all hugely impressive, and much of the album is simply a great and diverse Seventies rock album at heart. Beyond the bluster and frequent bombast is some respectable song-writing, and there's probably never been a symphonic prog album as wild and ballistic as this one, which makes it an intriguing title to investigate!

Three and a half stars.

Report this review (#1638468)
Posted Thursday, November 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Had this record been faultless you probably would have heard about it, but sadly this otherwise brave project is a bit plagued by its poor recording sound. Playing it loud helps though. There is actually much to like here; symphonic prog meets (Tibetan) spiritual music. An interesting musical vision with a side long suite as well. Orchestral sound palette including a choir on some passages. The keyboards are not that different from Barclay James, The Enid and ELP and the thick Les Paul guitar leads of Ashley Mulford will probably be enjoyed by fans of Hacket and Hillage. On the second track the band also shows some jazz-inspired chops with particularly fine drumming of Tony Cresswell. The musicianship here is quite good and the compositions do reach some prog bliss heavens - albeit sounding as if they were reached in a bunker. The vocals are fine too, though the lyrics are either not in English or full of dated political cliches. On some tracks the lead vocals are a bit buried in the mix, like on the opening track. The mood is quite glorious, celebratory and heavenly and people who frequent the word 'bombastic' will most certainly have their way here. The instrumental sections are particularly strong compared to the somewhat cheesier song- writing. On 'Om Mani Padme Hum (Movement Four)' the band is particularly on fire with a fine show of forceful prog rock with some great guitar solo's. The second side is bit more straight-forward and therefor more like your typical prog rock. The main riff of side two's opener 'Determination' could have been written by Yes themselves. It has yet another stellar guitar solo. 'Song for a King' sounds like it came straight from a Barclay James Harvest album. The singing on 'Roof of the World' reminds me a bit of Arthur Brown, another nice up-tempo orchestral rock track. The last track 'Looking In' is a mellow track with funk and jazz influences and soulful vocals. It ends the album with a great instrumental break-out. In conclusion; this is a nice curiosity and I'm glad to have owned the vinyl for a while, but it's a dated record that I would only recommend to real collectors of symphonic prog. For eastern influences in progressive rock I would gladly recommend mid-seventies Jade Warrior instead.
Report this review (#2576792)
Posted Tuesday, July 6, 2021 | Review Permalink

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