After the release of the third Mandalaband-album BC-Ancestors in 2009 (see review) two things could happen. Firstly the release of AD-Sangreal, the fourth album recorded by the same line-up, concerning the Romano-Spanish legends about the Holy Grail. This would be a difficult release because of the sudden death of keyboard player Woolly Wolstenholme in December 2010. Secondly the re-release of the first two albums; the latter actually happened. In the seventies Mandalaband recorded two legendary albums Mandalaband (1975) and The Eye Of Wendor (1978). Now they have been remixed and digitally remastered by David Rohl, the mastermind behind Mandalaband. He's not only the composer, producer and engineer, but above all a musician, who did a hell of a job with this fantastic release. David Rohl retitled both albums to Resurrection and released them as a 2CD-digipack including six bonus tracks and a booklet containing sixteen pages with liner notes and pictures of the time the album was initially recorded. Alas, I never got the opportunity to listen to these albums and thus I'm very pleased with this re-release. I guess more people feel that way.
In the early seventies David Rohl recruited his first line-up of Mandalaband. The band then consisted of very talented musicians as can be heard on the eponymous debut album. Dave Durant is a fantastic lead singer with an almost classical style of singing. Vic Emerson is a great keyboardist who sometimes has the classical touch of Rick Wakeman. Guitar player Ashley Mulford is able to play fine melodic solos and bass player John Stimpson and drummer Tony Cresswell are more than just a strong rhythm-section. David Rohl plays the keyboards and does some of the backing vocals. He primarily was sound engineer, producer and composer of the wonderful music that we can hear on Om Mani Padme Hum, the twenty-minute long opening piece. On this epic we hear Dave Durant and The London Chorale perform mantras and lyrics from the Tibetan national anthem. This has been done so powerfully that you almost get the idea that you're listening to a classical performance. It sounds very impressive; I love it very much.
The idea behind this piece was the invasion of Chinese troops in Tibet which was wonderfully put to music by the aforementioned musicians. Some people may find the music dated, but it can't be denied that the album contains excellent guitar solos and outstanding keyboard playing. Dave Durant has a strong tenor voice similar to people like Michael Sadler (Saga) or Philip Griffiths (Poor Genetic Material). The first bonus track on Mandalaband contains the original demo of Om Mani Padme Hum (1st Movement) recorded at Camel Studios in Poynton, Cheshire. It comes pretty close to the album version, but without the choir. The demo particularly shows the wonderful work of David Rohl as a producer, since he only had an eight track recording device at his disposal. The second bonus track is a live version of Looking In performed at CBS Studios in front of Chris Wright, the chairman of Chrysalis Records. Finally you can hear the Indigo Sound-recording of Roof Of The World, recorded after the version of the Trident Studios album. Again there's not much difference compared to the original version.
Chrysalis, the record company at the time, replaced David Rohl as a producer, so he left the band. The other members, with the exception of singer David Durant, continued with the deceased singer Paul Young (Mike & The Mechanics) and with guitarist Ian Wilson and they formed Sad Café. After a while Rohl continued to work as a producer, composer and musician serving Chrysalis. In 1976 he received the assignment to work on a series of three concept albums related to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. The lack of an own band made him decide to use the services of some well-known bands and artists he had worked with. He was very lucky to work with Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), 10CC, Barclay James Harvest, Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span) and Paul Young and Ian Wilson from Sad Café. Two years later the album The Eye Of Wendor: Prophecies appeared. Although the album was a reasonable sales success, Chrysalis cancelled the remaining two albums due to high cost. A bit strange if you know that the album was made on a budget of just £ 8,000. All the talented singers and musicians contributed for free, working in the 'dead hours' of the studio to keep cost low. Only this way they could afford the luxury of the Hallé Orchestra and the Gerald Brown Singers.
When you currently listen to the album you'll realize that it doesn't sound similar compared to the first album. The orchestral passages remained, but as a result of using several singers the music moves towards The Alan Parsons Project. APP also used several lead singers to colour the different musical styles on the album releases. The music may sound dated again, but it's beyond dispute that at the time some wonderful music had been written. It's not easy to mention any highlights, because all songs have their charm. The classical themes are excellent and match very well with the rock tunes thanks to the excellent performances of all singers and musicians. I dare to say that people who like The Alan Parsons Project and music that combine a classical orchestra with rock music will enjoy this second album of Mandalaband. The bonus tracks included are the 16-track demos of The Eye Of Wendor, The Witch Of Waldow Wood and Silesandre recorded at Indigo Sound in 1975. Again there's not much difference with the versions that made it to the original album. The songs sound very orchestral, but I'm not sure if the orchestra plays on these tracks.
I have to admit that I had to listen to both albums several times before I heard the beauty of the music as it was written and recorded in the seventies. At first I couldn't understand why these albums became collector items or got a cult status, but with some albums you have to dig a bit deeper. Fortunately I gave the music enough time to grow on me and that made it al worth while. The remastered and remixed versions of all tracks certainly helped a lot to bring this music to the new millennium. A big hand for David Rohl for giving me and many other prog devotees the opportunity to listen to both Mandalaband-albums once more and this time in the best possible way!
**** / **** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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