MANDRILL: New Worlds, Getting In The Mood (Label: Soul Brother)

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MANDRILL: New Worlds, Getting In The Mood

Mandrill are one of the world’s premier funk bands. Yes, present tense … they’re still working and making music! Formed way back in 1968 in Brooklyn, the band broke through in the early 70s, when, pacted to Polydor, they crafted their own take on funk – a mix of street soul, Latin rhythms, jazz flavours and a huge energy. After a stint with United Artists, they headed west to record for Arista and the two albums contained on this “twofer” were Mandrill’s second and third for that label. Recorded in 1978 and 1980 respectively, the sound is a little softer than what people had come to expect of the band … indeed one cut – ‘When You Smile’ – features a very twee kids’ chorus, but when they wanted to Mandrill could still cut the funk mustard – witness the rasping ‘Mean Streets’, the bass-led ‘Having A Love Attack’, the energy-charged ‘When You Shake’, the percussive ‘Feeling Good’ or the Latin groove that is ‘Lo Siento Mucho’ to understand what I mean. But in truth, collectors have been seeking these two albums for the mellower moments – notably ‘It’s Too Late’, a track long in demand on the modern soul scene. Then there’s ‘It’s So Easy Loving You’ – a sweet harmony-fuelled dancer. ‘My Kind Of Girl (My Girl)’ and ‘Getting In The Mood’ are two more excellent soul cuts that have the feel of classic EWF… and indeed that comparison could be made throughout. With the right breaks, Mandrill could well have rivalled the mighty Earth Wind And Fire but while Maurice White and his boys went on to pack stadiums, Mandrill drifted to smaller labels – yet they always produced good, honest funk. Recently, they worked on music for Obama’s election campaign and right now, we’re told, they’re busy on projects concerned with the rain forest and the preservation of the baboon after which they were named… but to hear classic Mandrill, you could do worse than check out this collection.
(BB) 3/5