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Mandoki Soulmates

Living in the Gap / Hungarian Pictures

Review by Gary Hill

Everything about this operation screams "classy." What I'm reviewing here is a double CD set. There are other formats in which this is available, including a vinyl set. The music here is a good mix of prog and jazz sounds. The first disc is more AOR based, while the second is more artsy and pure prog.

This project is the brainchild of Leslie Mandoki who brings vocals, drums and other percussion and udu skills to the show. He is joined by a number of first class musicians including Bobby Kimball, Chris Thompson, Ian Anderson, the late, great Jack Bruce, David Clayton-Thomas, Al Di Meola, Randy Brecker, Simon Phillips, Tony Carey among many others. While not everyone is on every song, it feels like a real collaborative effort from start to finish.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Living in the Gap
        
Living in the Gap

The soulful, funky groove that starts this sounds a bit like something Stevie Wonder might do. The cut works out into a killer AOR prog jam that showcases both soul and jazz leanings. It's a real powerhouse that makes for a great opener. I dig the rhythmic elements on the instrumental section that comes in later. There is some smoking hot keyboard jamming, too.

Young Rebels
The soul and funk sounds are definitely present on this number, too. It still has plenty of that AOR prog thing going on, too. This is classy stuff however you label it. It's a bit subtler than the opener was. It still manages to stand tall and be a strong entry in the track-list of the set.
Turn The Wind
This is a balladic piece. That said, it's of the folk rock variety. It still has plenty of prog in the mix, though. It's a mellower number that works well.
Where We Belong
A piano and vocal arrangement opens this track. The number builds upward and outward gradually from there. This gets into some seriously powered up territory. There is some killer guitar work, but also plenty of jazz styling. It manages to drop back down for a jazz-dominated interlude before we're taken back to the mellow vocal movement.
Let The Music Show You The Way
I like the way the dual vocals are used in alternating patterns. The cut has a real folk rock arrangement. The instrumental section where the flute and horn play around one another is a great touch.
Too Much Pride
This groove has more energy. It's jazzy AOR prog in action. It's also effective and entertaining. The scat singing section brings a definite jazz angle. The instrumental section on this number is a killer jam that is a real fusion workout. It has some smoking hot guitar work built into it.
Old Rebels
There is some roots music in the mix on this at times. The cut has a real AOR rock sound at its core, though. It's a mid-tempo romp that works well.
Welcome to Real Life
This powerhouse is a real prog rock masterpiece. It has plenty of AOR texture and a lot of jazz in the mix, but the dynamic and growing song structure is pure progressive rock. This is one of the highlights of the set and a lot of class.
Hottest Queen of Cool
The soulful jazz groove on this is classy. The tune works well. It's a pretty straightforward AOR styled number.
Wake Up
I love the energetic groove on this screaming hot tune. There is plenty of rock and jazz built into this thing. The horn solo later is positively on fire.
Mother Europe
I love Ian Anderson's vocals on this cut. He's instantly recognizable. The mix of different vocalists work well. This has a bit of "We Are The World" vibe to it. It's a powerhouse tune that's mainstream and classy. The sea of voices part is effective.
I'm Not Your Enemy
I love the keyboard jamming on this thing. In fact, those keys hold the track for much of the opening portion. It works out to an AOR number with a lot of jazz in the mix.
Hungarian Pictures
                     
Missions in the Village

The piano that opens this is powerful and creative. It holds the number for a while. Then a pretty balladic approach takes over for the entrance of the vocals. This is more of a pure prog kind of thing, and it grows out into a more powered up arrangement as it continues. There is definitely some world music in the mix here. The whole tune is dynamic and has some great evolution built into it. A harder rocking jam that is pure old-school progressive rock takes over around mid-track and drives it in some cool directions. The acoustic guitar soloing is incendiary as this moves into more jazz-like territory. It keeps shifting and changing, growing out into a hard rocking powerhouse resolution from there. Then it drops back down to mellow zones to continue. The smoking hot stuff returns later to take the piece to its conclusion.

Utopia for Realists
This shorter number seems to come right out the previous one. It's a more AOR based power-ballad type tune. There is a spoken section that takes over from the sung vocals at the end.
Transylvanian Dances
Another that seems to come out of the previous piece, this has a lot of classical and world music in the mix. It's a powerful number that drives forward in style. This is an epic, landing at over nineteen minutes of music. This killer instrumental section holds more than the first three of those minutes. Then we get a mellower vocal movement that makes me think of early King Crimson just a bit. The piece works to mellower musical explorations after that part. Eventually more vocals enter to hold the piece for another sedate section. Some intriguing mellow jazz meets classical instrumental work comes after that. That concept holds it until around the twelve-minute mark. Then the piece begins to intensify with rather classical sounds bringing it upward. It explodes into a prog rocking jam from there. Around the fifteen-minute mark it drops to a piano and vocal arrangement. It transitions to a mellow keyboard solo journey from there with organ the dominant sound. That section serves as the closing movement.
You'll Find Me in Your Mirror
A balladic approach is on display here. This is an effective and pretty number. At about two-and-a-half minutes of music, it's short.
Return to Budapest
The piano and other elements at the heart of this piece create a nice musical tapestry. Some vocals come over the top of that tapestry, bringing a bit of a world music vibe with them. This continues to evolve, eventually working to more of a song-based concept. It's on the mellower side and more mainstream. It intensifies a bit in the instrumental section at the end of the track.
Bararo
This stomps in as a real powerhouse number. It's packed full of old-school prog sound merged with some jazz. This instrumental works through a number of movements. It has a great mix of classical, jazz and rock sounds.
The Torch
Piano brings this cut into being. Vocals come in over the top of that backdrop. I like the saxophone on the balladic approach here. I'm reminded of some of Pink Floyd's more ballad-like pieces for some reason.

 

 
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