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With four superb and nearly flawless albums under their belt, it was no surprise to anyone when raves began pouring in for Mandrill's ambitious August 1974 double LP Mandrilland. Recorded in the swampy, seething backwater of Bogalusa, LA, the album proved by far to be the band's most sophisticated set of jams to date, thankfully in spite of the replacement of guitarist Doug Rodrigues for the departing Omar Mesa. Although the set is packed with deliciously smooth grooves, it's clear that the band was continuing to experiment with bright clatters and brash beats -- one spin through "Road to Love" provides a map through some of the best jazz-funk-Latin fusion, as notes tumble down into empty spaces before being lifted up by the hush of the vocals. It's an eclectic vibe, and one that plays beautifully off the quiet soul hook of "Khlida," a song that uses Carlos Wilson's flute and various vibes and synths to add Mandrill sparkle to what could otherwise have become a bland instrumental. Elsewhere, of course, Mandrill kick up classic, brassy funk on "Positive Thing" -- an R&B Top 30 hit -- while inflecting a little bayou blues into the often overlooked "Folks on a Hill."

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