Saturday, August 11, 2018

Forgotten?: Mandrill

Mandrill: Fencewalk


To put it mildly, our Forgotten? theme is off to a slow start. The problem, I think is the paradox at the heart of the matter. By definition, any band or artist I can think of is not forgotten, because I remember them. So the key, I think, is to feature acts who we feel never reached the level of fame they deserved.

I offer as my first example the band Mandrill. As heard here on their biggest hit, Fencewalk, these guys were easily the equal of any of the great 1970s funk bands, such as Sly and the Family Stone or Kool and the Gang. But two things set Mandrill apart, and both kept them from greater fame. The first was that, unlike so many of their peers, Mandrill never went disco. The band lasted in their original run until 1981, and attempted a comeback in 1991, but they never bowed to the prevailing musical trends. That was also the second thing that held them back. Despite the ppure funk heard here, the most unusual thing about Mandrill was how they blended Latin and African musical elements into their sound. Listen to Funky Monkey from 1977 to see what I mean. This was their attempt to adapt to the times, but they couldn’t bring themselves to record a pure disco song.

Mandrill: Funky Monkey


This one never settles into the robotic groove that disco required, and the rock guitar late in the song was something that might have been heard on a Parliament album at that time, but would not break the charts until Michael Jackson and Prince did it ten years later.

As a final example, here is Hang Loose. This one is from the same album as Fencewalk, but here the band is much looser. Every time you think you have the groove figured out, something else happens to change your mind. It makes the song a challenge to dance to, but it’s a great listening experience, and that actually sums up what Mandrill is all about.

Mandrill: Hang Loose


blog comments powered by Disqus