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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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MIKE MANDEL

Sky Music

Vanguard VCD 79409

 

 


1. Pyramids
2. Just the Way You Are
3. Elephant and Castle
4. Peg
5. As Fine as You Are
6. Jupiter Finger
7. Another Kind of Spring
8. Peg

Mike Mandel - Keyboards
Dave Sanborn - Alto sax
Gary Anderson - Tenor sax
Steve Khan, Darryl Thompson, Burt Jones - Guitars
John Lee - Bass (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Wilbur Bascomb - Bass (tracks 2, 5, 6)
Christopher Parker - Drums (tracks 1, 6, 7)
Gerry Brown - Drums (tracks 2-5)
Errol "Crusher" Bennett - Percussion, congas
Chris Hills - Percussion
George Young - Tenor sax
Lou Soloff - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Jon Faddis - Trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks 1-3)
Dave Taylor - Trombone (tracks 1-3)
Alex Foster - Tenor sax (tracks 1-3)
Barry Rogers - Trombone (tracks 4-7)
Lou Marini - Alto sax (tracks 4-7)

 

This is one of the first LPs I reviewed when I began my part-time career as a record critic - and the album has been a treasured part of my collection ever since. Mike Mandel is probably best known as a member of Larry Coryell's Eleventh House but this is one of two solo albums that Mike made in the 1970s. Recorded in 1978, it uses a lot of famous musicians, such as Dave Sanborn, Jon Faddis, Steve Khan and Lou Soloff.

But the star is Mike Mandel, a wizard with all kinds of keyboards, as well as the composer of some memorable tunes (he wrote all but two of the tunes on the album). Right from the opening Pyramid, the listener is entranced (well, I am) by the mixture of jazz with rock rhythms. The other dominant voice on the album is Dave Sanborn's keening alto sax, decorating several tracks with inspiring solos.

Just the Way You Are, recorded in the same year that it was a hit for Billy Joel, is handled with delicacy and a melodious solo from Mike on electric piano. Elephant and Castle is a groovy piece of funk, with a shifting rhythm breaking up the regular beat.

Steely Dan's wonderful song Peg appears twice on the CD - the second time as a "bonus track" - an extended version of the tune only issued as a 12-inch single in Britain. It includes swooping sax from Dave Sanborn and some gutsy guitar work.

As Fine as You Are illustrates the gentler side of Mike Mandel. It's a lovely tune whose melodic appeal is reminiscent of Just the Way You Are, with Dave Sanborn adding to its poignancy. Jupiter Finger is an outing for strange and varied keyboard sounds, as is Another Kind of Spring: the latter more tasteful than the former, with some nice acoustic piano from Mandel.

It is good to have this LP transferred to CD at last, retaining the excellent sound quality of the original - although the new personnel listings differ from the original ones, especially in omitting any mention of Dave Sanborn. This style of jazz fusion may be considered "old hat" in some quarters but it still has the power to entrance when it is performed as expertly as it is here.

Tony Augarde



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