When I was a young man back in 1979, there was a certain act that became rather famous in Germany and a little bit in the Netherlands as well. Dschinghis Khan was at the time a German Euro disco pop band. With members coming from Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary. One of them was Leslie Mándoki. Before he became a member Mándoki studied drums and percussion at the musical conservatory of Budapest in the early 1970s. At the same time he was a band leader for the local jazz-rock group JAM, citing groups like Cream and Jethro Tull as his influence. July 1975 he fled from Hungary to Munich, West Germany to avoid prosecution by the communist regime for being a member of the student opposition. He had been imprisoned 17 times for his political opposition before he fled into the West.
Nowadays Mandoki is a well-known producer who has worked with acts such as Phil Collins, Joshua Kadison, Lionel Richie and Jennifer Rush. He also worked as a musical director for commercials, with clients including Audi, Daimler and Disney. In 1993, Mandoki founded a group called Mandoki Soulmates, which combines elements of progressive rock with jazz music. The group has produced more than a dozen albums since then. Many famous artists appeared as guest musicians on the Soulmates albums, including Ian Anderson, Robin Gibb, Jack Bruce, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, Midge Ure, Nik Kershaw, Al Di Meola, Eric Burdon, Michael and Randy Brecker.
Strangely enough I had never heard about the Mandoki Soulmates until lately. I received the double album Living In The Gap / Hungarian Pictures together with a large package of info about this release! A release on which contributions from the earlier mentioned Leslie Mandoki (vocals, backing vocals, drums, percussion) and well known people such as Bobby Kimball (vocals, backing Vocals), Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), John Helliwell (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet), Al Di Meola (guitars), Chris Thompson (vocals), Ian Anderson (vocals, flute), Jack Bruce (bass, vocals), Nick van Eede (vocals), Mike Stern (guitars), Simon Phillips (drums) and Tony Carey (vocals, Hammond, piano).
Living In The Gap / Hungarian Pictures has become a damn rebellious album in which the "Old Rebels" meet the "Young Rebels" and not only announce the march to politics and business musically, because the only question that remains is "Are we young rebels with a new dream / Or are we new rebels with an old dream / Or are we young rebels with an old dream?" Or as Leslie Mandoki said himself; “With filter bubbles and echo chambers, our society is increasingly losing the connecting elements. To be honest, we have retired to our cosmopolitan-urban, academic comfort zones far too often. What makes it concern me? It is better to be calm than to stand up to undesirable developments. But we have to stand up against looking away and silence. That is why it is particularly important to emphasize what connects rather than what separates”.
Actually, you don't have to say many words about this publication anymore, since as previously said, consistently positive statements about Leslie Mandoki and his friends also apply to this. The music is extremely sophisticated and the lyrics set standards for criticism of the prevailing conditions on earth. For example, the single Young Rebels, which was released last summer and for which a video was produced, deals particularly intensively with the brand-new topic of the extremely flaring generation covenant about saving the world.
The first record Living In The Gap consists of twelve tracks, most of which come from Leslie Mandoki. They sound ultra-modern and invite you to indulge in jazz-rock climes. Different voices and styles. Sometimes it is more bluesy, then there are elements more oriented towards jazz. Different voices, male and female, create diverse vibes. A real diversified first disc.
The second CD Hungarian Pictures offers seven pieces that relate to musical themes by Bela Bartók (1881 - 1945) and his collection of traditional Hungarian folk songs. Newly arranged and supplemented with additional compositions, as well as with adaptations of the traditional texts and music, wonderful jazz-rock-folk numbers were created.
Living In The Gap is an ambitious, musical journey through time that works rather well if you are into more simple structured songs. And that's just the first CD of the double album. Hungarian Pictures is Mandoki's furious declaration of love for the great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and his native Hungary. While Living In The Gap still contains melodies for the masses, Mandoki takes a different path with Hungarian Pictures. Jazz rock rules here, large melodies meet masterful improvisations. It is a 46-minute prog rock suite, divided into 7 bites - but best audible in one piece. The joy of playing by the master musicians cannot be ignored. Sometimes it really gets down to business. Here the greats of this music style float through the arrangements like ghosts. No wonder this suite stems from an idea that Mandoki developed with Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jon Lord from Deep Purple. Both unfortunately died too soon to complete this work together with Mandoki as originally was planned! At the end of this process there is now an album that seamlessly joins the major albums of prog rock and related styles. It's hard to compare it any other well known names, therefore I will not try to do it.
Living In The Gap / Hungarian Pictures is another successful example of how lively people can still look for artistic inspiration to this day and tirelessly raise their warning voice without having to forego fun and joy. They do this together with music suitable for almost everybody. Disc one is therefore for those who don't want it too complex. And those out there for more adventurous music, the more complex compositions of Bela Bartok and arrangements of them can give them enough musical enjoyment as well.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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