Mandrill's debut isn't half the album it could've been, since the band's talented musicianship and desire to experiment were often subverted -- by ambitions of pop success as well as a dry, over-serious approach to music-making. The three Wilson brothers, though masters of over a dozen instruments, still hadn't mastered the added burden of songwriting; "Warning Blues" is perfunctory (as is the vocal performance) and "Symphonic Revolution" is a bland summer-day soul song with cloying strings. The group sounds much more confident getting into a good groove and allowing room for some great playing; the band's self-titled song, "Mandrill," is the best here, featuring great solos for flute and vibraphone. Mandrill also loved playing with different musical forms: "Rollin' On" moves from an average rock song to a torrid Latin jam and climaxes with a testifying gospel session. Most ambitious of all is the five-part, 14-minute suite "Peace and Love," but the intriguing concept is negated by a few bizarre pieces, one of which sounds like a parody of a Vincent Price reading over a Santana jam. The band would soon learn that experimentation and stylistic change-ups were a means, not an end.
AllMusic Review by John Bush