I put these two American progrock groups onto an mp3 cd filed under M for Mandrill (out of Brooklyn, NY.) They are paired with the much better known Vanilla Fudge out of Long Island, NY. NY is the only thing these bands have in common 🙂
Vanilla Fudge’s slow extended heavy rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs established them as a progrock band. Baroque organ, pile driving drumming & often overwrought vocals laid the ground work for decades of heavy metal bands that followed.
I have their first Vanilla Fudge; The Beat Goes On; Renaissance; Near The Beginning; Rock & Roll; their return in 2015: Spirit of ’67. The first is my high school soundtrack & I’ve had several copies of the lp. I loved polarized yellow & red cover & of course the ‘meaningful’ music. I hated ‘The Beat Goes On’ the followup, which is turns out they hated it too – a pretentious mishmash they blame on their producer. I edited it down to just the music.Renaissance is perhaps my favourite & their most progrock lp despite it’s hideous cover art. Season of the Witch get’s worked over. By the live Near The Beginning – their sound had become sludge & predictable with now aimless drum/organ solos; with Rock & Roll – tempo picks up, more original songs appear but their moment had passed. They made a decent return in 2015 with Spirit of ’67 – an excellent collection of re-imagining of songs like The Letter.
There was a wide range of progrock that sprung from Vanilla Fudge: Deep Purple, ELP, Yes. But these were rock. Then there was Mandrill out of Brooklyn, NY. Their’s is an rootsy, soul, r’n’b, African mix that took prog in a different funkier direction. I have mixed in with Vanilla Fudge – Mandrill; Mandrill Is; Composite Truth; Just Outside of Town; Energize.
Their sound is a gritty version of Chicago – full horn section, percussion, rock guitar. Great vocals. Songs about love, ghetto life, racism & hope. Long extended jams, almost jazz explorations & of course a couple of pieces that cover one side of an lp. They never really had a hit single (that showed up on the Cape Breton charts anyway.) There are dozens of these lost bands & this is one worth searching out of you want your progrock on the soulful side.
“So you were one of his new family?” Vasili pushed the beer bootle in the pool of sweat that had formed around it.
“Not for long. He coached the chess club for a few years. I was part of the team for the last few months before … he stopped.”
Vasili pushed his hair back with one hand – the hairs on the back of his hand almost as black & thick as the hair on his head. We had chatted briefly at the viewing. Only a few people had come.
“He would write us long letters about new his life here in Canada. How hard it was for him not to have us with him. After he defected we were taken from our mother least she leave with us.”
“I didn’t realize he was that important.”
“Oh yes. He was … someone the government was proud of, a hero to the people, like … a cosmonaut. I later found out we where held as a threat. They told him would be harmed if he didn’t come back. We weren’t, you know, harmed. At least not directly by them. We kids were never told what happened. One day we were living with our mother and when we came home from school militia put us in a car & drove us to the farm where we grew up. No explanation. We didn’t get his letters until years later. Many years later.”
I wanted to say ‘how sad’ but there seemed nothing I could say that didn’t sound weak.
“He showed us pictures of his family. He missed you and …. didn’t know how to do anything.”
Pushing my memory back those twenty years wasn’t easy. I’ve had so many of my own issues to stumble over and forgot Mr. Razov after a year or so. “Teenagers can be so self-centred.”