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Mashmakhan - Mashmakhan CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.20 | 19 ratings

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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.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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