Mandrill – 1973 – Composite Truth
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Intro review by AMG, Main review by S. St Thomas
Rip, Research, Posting and additional info’s by Nikos
Composite Truth is Mandrill’s most successful album, commercially as well as artistically. Although the band’s sense of freewheeling experimentation had been tempered, its gradual transition to a straight-ahead funk band was made perfect with two of the biggest hits of its career: “Hang Loose” and “Fencewalk.” “Hang Loose” is all over the place (in a good way), moving from a grooving funk jam to mid-tempo guitar skronk and back, all part of an impassioned call to peace. “Fencewalk” also had several transitions, with a crooning chorus and an extended middle section powered by heavy brass and a screaming guitar solo. Elsewhere, Mandrill turns in a very convincing impression of a salsa band (“Hágalo”), breaks into killer loose-groove funk (“Don’t Mess With People,” with a splendidly undecipherable vocal), and stumbles only with the long, rasta-fied San Francisco tribute “Polk Street Carnival,” featuring a bass part that would make even a student smirk. (For such a strong band, Mandrill’s basslines were often uncharacteristically weak.) In the main, the songs on Composite Truthwere catchier than on its first two albums, and the band never appeared subservient to the sense of experimentation that had troubled it before. Even if on Composite Truth Mandrill sounded more like other funk bands of the time, no one could argue with the fact that the results were more exciting and consistent.
A1 Hang Loose 4:45
A2 Fencewalk 5:26
A3 Hagalo 2:47
A4 Don’t Mess With People 3:43
B1 Polk Street Carnival 6:06
B2 Golden Stone 7:16
B3 Out With the Boys 5:10
B4 Moroccan Nights 6:43
Recorded in the winter of 1972, and released in 1973, Mandrill’s Composite Truth is such a mixture of styles and inner talent, that it’s amazing that this band isn’t regarded more highly.
One of the few multi-cultural bands in recorded history should be at least held up in some esteem for just being willing to ‘mix and match’. This band was comprised of Neftali Santiago on Drums, Omar Mesa on Guitar, Fudgie Kae on Bass & Acoustic guitar, Claude Cave on Keyboards, and the Brothers Wilson, Lou on Trumpet, Ric on Sax, and multi-instrumentalist Carlos on Trombone, Sax, Flute, Guitar and Drums.There is a huge amount of talent just in the players. But does it make great material?
There are as many multi-cultural influences on the music that a multi-cultural band can come up with, and throughout this whole album, many different forms of music are explored. Often placed one on top of the other. And it has some serious Funk on it as well.
Claude Cave’s ‘Hang Loose‘ is pure Funk mixed with Afro-cuban rhythms. Opening the album with very strong material often says that the rest won’t match up. Not on this album. It actually gets better as it progresses, and by the time ‘Loose’ is over, and the Wilson Brothers ‘Fencewalk‘ begins, you’re hearing one of the Funkiest bands from the 1970’s. Omar Mesa’s guitar solo in ‘Fencewalk’ is just one of its highlights, because the song just on its own would be easy pickings for any Hip~Hop, Rap sample.
There’s a quick jump in styles into The Wilson Brothers ‘Hágalo‘, which is pure Latino/Hispanic in its execution. Listening to it, you wouldn’t know the band was comprised of such a mixture of races, all jumping from Funk to Latino, and other surprises along the way. What follows is The Wilson Brothers standout track, ‘Don’t Mess With People‘, which literally has one of the funkiest ‘break’ sections I’ve ever heard. It’s almost ”too funky”, and when you wonder if something is just too much, when it overloads your senses because it is just so good, it almost gets frightening. ‘…..People’ has a killer break section. Absolutely Funk.
What used to be Side Two opens with The Wilson Brothers ‘Polk Street Carnival‘, in its mixture of Calypso, and Latino music, it truly groundbreaks just in mixing the two styles. Omar Mesa’s ‘Golden Stone‘ follows, and is one of the true highlights of the album. It’s Beatles / Chicago / Blood Sweat & Tears leanings can’t be ignored, but it boasts a great organ solo by Claude Cave, who also adds some interesting Moog Synthesiser treatments to the song. The whole song is comprised of quite a few sections in its 7 minutes, easily moving from one to the other. It’s opening is Pop, it then goes to Jazz (Chicago/BS& T styled), I also hear the Association. It then has extended solos from Mesa & Cave, and then moves into very heavy rock. ‘Golden Stone’ I’m surprised I have never heard on Radio. The next song is Fudgie Kae’s ‘Out With The Boys’, an acoustic ballad about drinking and lamenting. To be truthful, the song is nice, but I got confused midway lyrically about who he was talking about! First it’s him, then it’s his girl, then there’s these other two guys. I got lost! I’ll have to give the song (which I own on vinyl, from when it was originally issued) another try. But it’s like a 5 minute soap opera.
The album closes with a truly stand-out, beautiful song, The Wilson Brothers ‘Moroccan Nights‘. Carlos Wilson’s Flute playing makes this song a delight to listen to, with its very laid back funk atmosphere, and interesting syncopated percussion. A great way to close an album that is quite near perfect.
This is definitely an album worth a purchase and listen, because MANDRILL were historically important, and musically as well.