Review – Mandoki Soulmates – A Memory Of Our Future – by John Wenlock-Smith

The name Leslie Mandoki may not be familiar to most prog fans but bear with me for his music is something slightly different. Leslie Mandoki’s was born in then communist Hungary in Budapest in 1953, he became fascinated by English Progressive Rock music from the likes of Gentle Giant and, especially, Jethro Tull. Leslie was part of the Student Uprising and was imprisoned on 17 occasions, after which he and some friends decided to escape the country and seek a new life in the west.

Upon arrival in the west Leslie joined the German group Dschinghis Khan who were a six piece outfit formed to compete at the 1979  Eurovision Song Contest, coming 4th. In 1992 Leslie decided to to start his own group, Mandoki Soulmates, where his would fuse his love of progressive rock with jazz music. To this end, he used his record producer contacts to assemble some ‘A’ list musicians to help him realise his vision.

The original incarnation of Soulmates featured such talented artists as Ian Anderson, Jack Bruce and Al Di Moela and Leslie has continued for over 25 years to attract serious talent for his albums, like Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Greg Lake and John Helliwell, amongst others.

This latest album continues in the same manner, although this time it was recorded using Leslie’s own old analogue equipment and released primarily on vinyl for optimum sound quality. It was also recorded with the musicians being present and not through file sharing, this gives the music a definite presence and warmth, allowing for some great interactions amongst the musicians.

The album begins with the track Blood In The Water, which features Ian Anderson’s flute very much to the forefront.It is an excellent track and Anderson’s flute really makes an impact. Enigma Of Reason is another great track, which does have more than a whiff of Toto to it. Leslie’s vocals are excellent here and the guitar of Al Di Moela adds great colour to the track, as do the wonderful brass parts, making this a track that certainly impresses and stays with you. The Wanderer puts me in mind of Annie’s Song by John Denver as it has a similar sound and the oboe plays a similar melody, rather unusual but effective nonetheless. This is a gentle track with good sentiments and lyrics, it is actually a nice touch and makes a positive impression when listening.

The Big Quit is very jazzy in places, which gives the fusion players in the band room to shine, as Leslie bemoans that “We’ve got Zoom, we’ve got Skype, we’ve got everything but real life”, as the song calls out on the quitting culture ,how folks give up rather than pushing on through. This is all relayed with some nifty acoustic guitar runs from Al, great horns from Randy Brecker and Leslie’s propulsive drumming. A really strong track indeed. Devil’s Encyclopaedia again features Ian Anderson and his dextrous flute playing. The song is a call for people like us to seek reality and to stand against brutality. It’s a strongly political track as, indeed, is much of the album, although the music in which it is enveloped makes it more palatable I feel. A Memory Of My Future is a slightly wistful number in its opening part, although, at the two minute mark, there are strong touches of Al Di Moela’s solo albums in the guitar playing and it sounds really impressive. This is an interesting, almost autobiographical track.

I have to say that the more I hear of this album, the more I find to appreciate and also to enjoy. I feel this mixture of progressive elements with jazz fusion has much appeal. While the lack of blistering electric guitar solos may be problematic for some, there are some excellent musical passages here and a lot to enjoy, Age Of Thought does have a great Mike Stern blowout that kind of redresses the balance somewhat.

I think fans of Steely Dan and Toto will definitely like this interesting album as it has an excellent cast of musicians who all respond very positively to the direction and leadership of Leslie Mandoki. This is a most satisfying album and one that warrants frequent replays to get the most out of it. I recommended it highly, why not give it a listen and see what you think. I personally enjoyed it as a slow burning, groove led, album of great depth and integrity.

Released 10th May, 2024

Order the album here:

A Memory Of Our Future (

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