I quote the press release: “Way back in 1997, three hippies met.” Maybe the grandchildren of three hippies, but these three guys look like the smell good, hold down paying occupations, and don’t relay on psychedelics for inspiration. They also have that oh-so-cute fascination with analog vinyl and vacuum tubes that were already obsolete during the Summer of Love. But they can play sitar non-ironically and spin out some decent progressive time signatures with a result is actually better than I remember hippy music of the time.
Occasionally sounding like Roky Erickson, (“Within”) occasionally like 1968 John Lennon (“Sun”) and always like they are trying to impress John Lodge (“Into the Night”), these guys do really recapture the era when rock and roll became artistically legit. Prior to the progressive rock sound the genre was either power pop ballads about teen age love and rebellion, or acid washed arguments against continued warfare. For a brief period actual musicianship became important and long-haired rockers discovered the joys of long hair music from an earlier generation.
Soon the whole industry became self important, and happily impaled itself on the spiked hair of punks. Mandela avoids the worst of these sins; their vocals stay breathy and subdued, guitars are used surgically and the sitar artfully adds just a soupçon of spiciness while never overwhelming the sound. There’s even a bit of the old heavy metal on the opener “There’s a Wind That Blows”. Overall, I rank these guys as solid band with a good sound and a solid sense of where they fit in the musical time line from Little Richard to Lil’ Kim.