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Fuzz Acid & Flowers:
The Mandrake Memorial began life with an unknown New York City band called The Novae Police, featuring Kevin Lally and Randy Monaco. They played in the Village for a while, opening for bands like The Flying Machine (featuring James Taylor), whilst Randy was also doing a lot of demo work, singing on the first demo of "Happy Together" which The Turtles later recorded.
Meanwhile, guitarist Craig Anderton was playing in a college band from the University of Pennsylvania called The Flowers of Evil, who played shows with Woody's Truck Stop (Todd Rundgren's first band). Keyboardist Michael Kac was also in Philadelphia's Cat's Cradle.
The Mandrake's came together through promoter Larry Schriver, who was working in conjunction with club owner Manny Rubin. Manny was looking for a house band for his club, The Trauma in Philadelphia. The band started playing the Philadelphia, New York, Boston and college circuits, even appearing with Pink Floyd on TV and through Manny obtained a deal with MGM subsidiary Poppy (their first two albums were issued by RCA in the UK).
Their debut album which was released in the Fall of '68 sold over 100,000 copies and is made up of short commercial rock compositions like Bird Journey,Rainy May and Dark Lady with Randy Monaco's pleasing, laid back vocals and Michael Kac's keyboards usually to the fore. The strongest track on the album is possibly the haunting Strange, but a consistent standard is maintained throughout.
The simple pop format is dropped on the Medium album which is the group's first real excursion into the world of psychedelia. By the time of it's release Michael Kac had left the band due to musical differences. Overall, it is less consistent but possibly more interesting than their earlier effort. Of particular interest is the opening track on Side Two, the haunting After Pascal, which has an unusual psychedelic intro, and the fuzztone guitar work on Smokescreen. Another trackBarnaby Plum also has an unusual psychedelic intro and a pleasant autoharp piece in the middle. However, some of the other music on the album is frankly tedious.
As a three piece, the band came to England to record an LP with Shel Talmy producing. However the resultant "intimate acoustic guitar" album was deemed too uncommercial and shelved. An acetate of the album still exists, and many of the songs were later re-recorded for Puzzle.
Their third and final album, Puzzle, was their most ambitious. It had a most interesting cover. The mysterious opening track Earthfriend Prelude sets the tenor for the remainder of the album, which is their rarest and something of a collectors' item. But other tracks like Just A Blur were more in the style of their first album, while Kyrie finds the group playing material, as does A Children's Prayer on Side Two. Volcano Prelude, the opening track on Side Two commences with a slow orchestrated drum crescendo, while Whisper Play is possibly the strangest track on the album, based around the idea of quasi-religious music, superimposed with whispers. Overall, this amounted to an early concept album and, with a total playing time of almost 49 minutes, was excellent value when first released.
After Puzzle the group recorded a cover of Thunderclap Newman's Something In The Air, which was released as a 45 with picture sleeve, but this didn't "happen" and Kevin Lally left afterwards.
Randy Monaco later played with The 1910 Fruitgum Co. but sadly died in the late seventies from cirrhosis.
Craig Anderton went on to form Anomaly with musicians Charles Cohen and Jeff Kane. They backed Linda Cohen on her Poppy label albums in the early seventies. Anderton became well-known beginning in the seventies as an author, writing the do-it-yourself books "Electronic Projects For Musicians" and "Home Recording For Musicians", as well as contributing a regular column to 'Guitar Player' magazine called "Electronic Guitar". He also participated in a newsletter available to musicians by mail-order called "Device" that provided tips on modifying guitars, amps and special effects boxes. In retrospect, while he might be a footnote in rock history for his musical talents, his contribution to rock music in general through his writing is phenomenal, certainly without measure. ~ (Vernon Joynson/Lee Rand/Clark Faville)
$CUT$01. "Earthfriend (Prelude)" 3:51
02. "Earthfriend" 4:50
03. "Just A Blur (Version 1)" 0:46
04. "Hiding" 3:02
05. "Just A Blur (Version 2)" 1:38
06. "Tadpole" 2:18
07. "Kyrie" 3:17
08. "Ocean's Daughter" 3:33
09. "Volcano (Prelude)" 1:53
10. "Volcano" 0:41
11. "Whisper Play" 4:55
12. "Bucket Of Air (1)" 0:37
13. "Bucket Of Air (2)" 14:22
14. "childrens Prayer" 3:04
15. "Puzzle" 1:24
Craig Anderton / guitars, electronics
Randy Monaco / bass, voices
John Kevin Lally / drums