Tom Hayes 15-April-2001 Just Outside of Town

Mandrill - Just Outside of Town

While funk is not the normal Gnosis fare, there were certain bands in the early 1970's who went beyond the traditional boundaries of the genre. According to the liner notes of this CD and website, Mandrill were considered far too complex for the standard funk listening audience. And their compositional style was not at all conducive to trimming for radio airplay. While I doubt anyone will confuse the band with Semiramis or Museo Rosenbach, there are plenty of tricky grooves here to engage even the most finicky Gnosis user. Especially when one considers that Mandrill were a seven-piece unit that played close to 20 different instruments!

The album itself, Mandrill's fourth, is a mixture of hard funk, soul, hard rock, jazz, and (gasp) progressive rock. "Mango Meat" and "Fat City Strut" are classic funk tunes with great horn charts, complex groovy meters and, on the latter, some good time Caribbean party music. Apparently these are perennial classics with those that sample music. "Never Die" is a cross between The Temptations catchy chorus lines and soft psychedelia a la Strawberry Alarm Clock. "Love Song" would fit comfortably on classic soul romancer albums such as those by Isaac Hayes or Barry White. But the best is saved for last. "Two Sisters of Mystery" features a monster fuzz bass riff that would make Hugh Hopper blush. This is one hard rocking track with a gritty horn section and rollicking guitar licks. Best of all is "Afrikus Retrospectus," an eight minute instrumental beauty carried by a gorgeous running organ melody and some nice Bacharachian sax (ala "The Look of Love"). The mid section has some fantastic piano, flute and trumpet jams. The closing track "Aspiration Flame" is another slow instrumental track with some great flute and an inspiring, energetic ending. Overall, Mandrill are just the sort of band to introduce funk to those who enjoy listening to music rather than dancing to it.

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