In the previous century I was always on the look out for (obscure) funk. I stumbled upon a fabulous band, named Mandrill. Underestimated and (too) unknown. This article is a tribute to their best album: 1973’s Composite Truth.
Mandrill was named after the West-African ape. The band was formed in 1968 in Brooklyn, New York. At first, the band consisted of the three brothers Carlos Wilson, Lou Wilson and Ric Wilson, all three born in Panama.
They rehearsed at the beauty parlor where their mother worked. The band was soon expanded and signed a (record) deal with Polydor. This resulted in the release of their 1970’s debut album Mandrill. Their music was a mix between jazz-rock, Latin music, rock, soul and funk. Their next album, 1972’s Mandrill Is, provided them with their first hits: Ape Is High and Git It All.
By the time recording commenced for their third album the classic Mandrill line-up was implemented. At the end of 1972 the band set up camp at New York’s Electric Lady Land studio’s to record Composite Truth. It is the most successful album by the band, commercially as well as artistically. The music was more funk oriented than before. Both singles, Hang Loose and Fencewalk, are very diverse. Both songs are made up of many musical themes and tempo’s.
The beauty of the album lies in the completely natural way all kinds of different musical styles are blended together into one unique sound. On top of that, the musicianship is top notch. The horn section is very funky and catchy. And, the album contains some impressive guitar solo’s.
The song Polk Street Carnival is considerably less than what comes before and after, but that doesn’t diminish the overall joy of listening to this great album. It’s a dizzyingly eclectic album, which is ore than worth the time.
- Hang Loose
- Don’t Mess With People
- Polk Street Carnival
- Golden Stone
- Out With The Boys
- Moroccan Nights
- Carlos Wilson – vocals, (rhythm)guitar, timbales, steel drums, alto-saxophone and trombone
- Lou Wilson – vocals, conga’s and trumpet
- Ric Wilson – tenor-saxophone and background vocals
- Claude ‘Coffee’ Cave – keyboards and background vocals
- Omar Mesa – vocals and guitar
- Fudgie Kae Solomon – vocals, bas and background vocals
- Neftali Santiago – drums
The search for a new drummer, ultimately, came down to two names: Dennis Davis and Neftali Santiago. Dennis Davis was not chosen, but he was quickly picked up by David Bowie. Dennis Davis would play drums on, among others, Bowie’s so-called Berlin-trilogy.
After Composite Truth
After the fourth album Just Outside Of Town, the classic line-up was falling apart. After album number five, Mandrilland, only the Wilson brothers and Claude ‘Coffee’ Cave were still standing. The band left Polydor and, after releasing two albums on the United Artists label, signed a deal with Arista. The first album for Arista, 1977’s We Are One, garnered two major hits. After that, it went downhill for the band. Mandrill disbanded in 1982. At the end of the 1990’s the band reconvened. Up to this day the band still plays live.
With the rise of hip-hop, Mandrill was (re)discovered. Many sampled their music, among which such names as Public Enemy, DJ Shadow, Kanye West and Eminem.
Do you know the album Composite Truth? What’s your opinion? Let me know!
Mandrill – LA Radio Station 1973 & Mandrill – Promoting Composite Truth images: kingrhythm.tripod.com
Mandrill image: mandrillmusic.com
Mandrill – Composite Truth image: dustygroove.com