Showing posts with label THE FINAL ON VINYL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label THE FINAL ON VINYL. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Progressive-Rock-Fusion LP Review: Mandoki Soulmates-A Memory of Our Future

Release Date: March 9, 2024

Label: Inside Out Music


It's been quite a while since I last immersed myself in the progressive rock world of Mandoki Soulmates. This time, their musical journey is encapsulated in two vinyl LPs titled A Memory of Our Future. Moreover, these LPs are accompanied by a generous album-sized booklet, a visual and textual companion to their music. The richness of their sound is further enhanced by various instruments, a hallmark of their unique style.


From the first note to the last, this recording demands your attention. Each song is a masterpiece, a testament to the band's musical prowess and creativity. There was not one song I did not appreciate, a rare feat in music.


Side One starts with "Blood in the Water," a high-energy mover. The flute begins (thank you, Ian Anderson), and then some cool retro-sounding keys come into the mix. The lyrics are something to pay attention to from start to finish, and this has some clear messages. "Sharks are hungry, and the water is deep," was one phrase. These words, delivered with great harmonies and vocals, resonate deeply, evoking a sense of urgency and the need for vigilance. I do not think they are talking about fish, though.


"Enigma of Reason" follows with a mellow beginning, soft acoustics with guitar and percussion. It continues with that steady pace and feeling as they sing, "Walking on hot coals and feeling my feet are cold." It picks up more intensity with the addition of an electric guitar and some faster-paced keys with variable vocalizations ranging from slow to fast. It slows down again, and a smooth sax enters, followed by a trumpet. A notable bass line is apparent, and then a superb acoustic guitar (Al DiMeola) with worldly accents treating your senses. It is progressive in every way. Remember that these tracks are not short and have plenty of space for all the instruments to add their unique sounds and atmospheres.


"The Wanderer" closes out the first side with a slow burner. Because of the same accent, the vocals immediately reminded me of Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, etc.). Leslie Mandoki, Nick Van Eede, and Tony Carey provide the vocals. The distinctive backdrop of music for the words and emphasis on how they are presented takes hold of you as they sing, "This land is full of tears after decades of fears." Words of strong meaning come through.

Side two starts with "The Big Quit," which opens with a funkier sound. It is a total departure from previous tracks, but very good. I appreciate the lyrics; they ring true to how we live, and the meaning gets an exclamation point: "Nobody wants to work." Some quick flourishes of picking on the acoustic guitar with an interesting mix of vocal exchanges get your attention. Horns chime in and gather momentum as the guitar continues with fantastic clarity and consistency. It's an exciting and entertaining song. Another line that got me was, "Easy times created easy people; easy people bring us hard times." Then, words are reversed to serve an equally tricky situation in an endless circle. Thought-provoking lyrics and great music are an unbeatable combination.


"Devil's Encyclopedia" is the best-lyrically written song on the album. The flute starts, and percussion rings true as they sing, "Dogs of war are howling" and "Social media becomes the Devil's encyclopedia." Those words are so accurate, sad as they have become, and how they have changed our lives. Some good harmonies populate the space given and sync with the rhythms. Those elements put a lot of emphasis on those words of truth. This one was my favorite track. Adequate breaks and pauses on the vocals give you more appreciation for the musicianship and excellent vocalizations when they are there.  I loved the line, "When words fail, the music speaks," and never more accurate as the listen continues.


"A Memory of My Future" closes side two with an excellent backbeat and a superb acoustic guitar with all its elegance and color. It is a superior way to end that side with the title track.


Side three starts with "I Am Because You Are," which is very soft with a relaxed ambiance and matching music and vocal tones. The track's title is explained well, and the vocals seemingly float over the music with a gentle push.


"My Share of Your Life" is dynamic, as they sing, "Sharing life in this much too short life." It hits home. The track's easygoing heartbeat and ever-present acoustic guitar are gorgeous. The lyrics carry a sadness of reality as the music sounds off with some great timing. Some solid electric guitar lines make their presence known. The repeating chorus makes a strong impact. As with all of the tracks, each instrument is recognized, and as a listener, you are very conscious of that and how it fits in shaping the story.


Side four begins as we approach the end of this magnificent musical journey. "Matchbox Racing" reminded me fondly of being a little boy and treasuring those little toys. Horns, keys, bass, and guitars merge for a beautiful musical story. All the pieces fit together nicely as they sing this prolific line: "Don't dream your life, live your life." Sage words wrapped around outstanding prog-rock fusion.


"We Stay Loud" lives up to its name and is exciting as they sing "Bang it out and stay loud," damn straight! Solid bass lines drive it along with percussion, keeping perfect time. Horns give it an upbeat orchestral feel. I enjoyed the vocals resonating throughout to get the necessary energy flowing and make a believer out of you. I believe!


They could not have ended this album with a better-titled track. "Melting Pot" defines who they are and what kind of music you will hear as the fusion of sounds continues with great defining moments. It starts very mildly with a minimalist approach; now, who would have thought that, right? The sax and keys change the mood with added instruments here and there to keep it interesting, which they manage to do on every track. There is no time for boredom or your mind drifting while listening to this music.  This instrumental lets you focus only on the brilliance of all the musicians. And it serves as a reminder of just how powerful music can be in the hands of the right people. Some nice acoustic piano gets in the mix, and it's classically flavored for another surprising twist.


So, with Mandoki Souls on A Memory of Our Future, it's more about the choices of words and the music that drive the message. It is great music by a talented group of people, and they prove it in every track. If you want to listen to vinyl and some progressive rock fusion, this is one slice of pie you need to digest all in one sitting.


The publicity for this album explains it like this: an intergenerational supergroup of rock and fusion grandmasters with Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Stern, Al di Meola, Randy Brecker, Till Brönner, Bill Evans, John Helliwell (Supertramp), Cory Henry, Richard Bona, Steve Bailey, Simon Phillips (Toto), Leslie Mandoki, Tony Carey (Rainbow), Nick van Eede (Cutting Crew), Jesse Siebenberg, and Mark Hart (both Supertramp).


How could you possibly miss that stellar lineup? Nope, it's a bullseye!


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck TFOV Founder

June 6, 2024


Disc: 1

1. Blood in the Water

2. Enigma of Reason

3. The Wanderer

Disc: 2

1. The Big Quit

2. Devil's Encyclopedia

3. A Memory of My Future

Disc: 3:

1. I Am Because You Are

2. My Share of Your Life

3. Age of Thought

Disc: 4

1. Matchbox Racing

2. We Stay Loud

3. Melting Pot

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Progressive Instrumental Rock Review: Yang - The Failure of Words LP

Release Date: February 9, 2017

The Failure of Words album was my introduction to Yang. The band was founded in 2002 by Frédéric L'Epée, who plays guitars and keyboards. Laurent Mouton also plays guitars, with Nico Gomez on bass and Volodia Brice handles the drums on the recording.  

Yang is an instrumental rock quartet that many would classify as Math Rock, Prog Rock or Art Rock, but for the sake of uncomplicating matters, I will refer to it as Progressive Instrumental music. The first band that came to mind as a comparison was King Crimson. I would think that is quite a compliment that the band would appreciate.

As the band explains on their website: The Failure of Words is a touchstone in Yang's evolution. The idea behind the project was to express the inability, as human beings, to communicate with our species, always experiencing conflict, disharmony, and delusion. Only art, love, can convey our deepest feelings and ideas.

That is how they came up with the title of the album because words failed them.

The music is very complex yet not over the top and the kind you need to be in a certain mood to listen to. Music that gets too crazy for too long either gives me a headache or I find myself completely immersed, it just depends on what mood and frame of mind I am in. I suppose that would equate to any listening experience but for my tastes, it happens to work with mostly with prog or acid jazz and fusion.

The Failure of Words was perfect timing for my listening pleasure, and above all, appreciation. I received the vinyl LP via my Prog Rock Music Talk ( site where I am requesting vinyl for review for The Final On Vinyl site, my latest project. I had to do a bit of research about the band and its leader Frédéric L'Epée before jumping in. The influences of King Crimson and Yes are quite evident to these ears. That is my humble opinion of course, and certainly, other folks may hear something else. I heard Yes on the closing track “Healing,” in particular to the keyboards. All the other guitar parts were pleasing to my prog loving soul. Because I have been listening to prog since the 70s it was not hard to enjoy this presentation of high-level musicianship from beginning to end.

The track lengths are typically prog as the album opens with “El Diablo” which runs 7:12, the longest track on the LP, then closes with the aforementioned “Healing,” ending at 6:06. Every track resonated with me and made me feel I need to investigate all of the former releases from this band. Even though The Failure of Words came out in 2017, it was new to me. I am always open to discovering bands I have never heard before and sometimes they find me rather than the other way around. In this case, thank you Frédéric for turning me on to your music and opening my ears to some fantastic instrumental progressive throughout the 7 tracks on the LP.

This music intrigues, invigorates, and continually amazes me. The prog-rock community will appreciate what went into creating The Failure of Words and the significance of the words in the title. What we have here is prolific music without words that carries an equally direct and impressive message. For me, that is the whole package, it is very difficult not to hear the music and the messages within, especially when you come to an understanding before listening.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-The Final on Vinyl
September 7, 2019
Side 1:
1. El Diablo 07:12  
2. 9/8 Variations 08:01
3. Décroissance (Degrowth) 05:23

Side 2:

1. Iago  4:12
2. Six Four Five 05:16
3. Indecision 05:34
4. Healing 06:06