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Fencewalk: The Anthology

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Album Review

Right from the start of this two-disc collection, with the track that shares the band's name, it's clear that Mandrill had some seriously heavy funk credentials — and broad ranging ones at that. Only early Santana and War gained the same level of attention and appreciation for their exciting, invigorating Latin-funk hybrids. Fencewalk: The Anthology actually isn't the best of purchases for longtime fans; unlike many multi-disc CD anthologies, there aren't any rarities or previously unreleased songs available, outside of the concluding "Echoes in My Mind," which surfaced on the soundtrack to The Warriors. It's a reasonable enough number but not particularly special by the band's standards, and not reason enough alone to pick this up. But as a more than fine overview of Mandrill's work throughout the '70s, from the start to finish of those ten years, this is required listening for anyone exploring the roots of electric funk, two and a half hours of party music aiming to move minds and bodies in equal measure. The Wilson brothers and their fellow musicians had an ear for just about everything, from the sweetest of soul harmonies over lush strings to the loudest of acid rock-inspired riffs and plenty of roots-deep inspiration from salsa and Latin jazz. Claude "Coffee" Cave demonstrates throughout why he ranks up there as one of the best keyboardists of his time — at his best he easily gives Bernie Worrell a well-deserved run for the money — while the interplay of drummers Charles Padro and, later, Neftali Santiago with the Wilsons on percussion is maximum groove energy on many levels. An appreciative, well-written essay on Mandrill's heyday and abilities from Pablo Guzman is very welcome, while Gary Mayo's remastering job deserves full marks for bringing out the detail of the arrangements beautifully into the digital realm.


Formed: 1968 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

One of funk's most progressive outfits, Mandrill paid the price for their ambitions in commercial returns -- not that they never earned a reputation or an audience, but their expansive, eclectic vision often worked better when given an album's worth of room to roam, rather than being condensed into hit singles. Mandrill's jam-heavy brand of funk was liberally infused with Latin, Caribbean, and jazz influences, plus blues, psychedelia, African music, and straight-up rock. Their freewheeling approach...
Full bio
Fencewalk: The Anthology, Mandrill
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  • £24.99
  • Genres: R&B/Soul, Music, Rock, Funk
  • Released: 01 January 1997

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