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Mandoki Soulmates: Living in the Gap/Hungarian Pictures

Mandoki Soulmates is the musical conglomerate founded by vocalist/drummer Leslie Mandoki that has included a wide variety of musicians & vocalists since their inception in 1991, including such notable players as Ian Anderson, Jack Bruce, and Al DiMeola among many others. The band are now releasing not one, but two new albums as one set, titled Living in the Gap/Hungarian Pictures as a 2CD set. Along with Mr. Mandoki, this sprawling set of new music features Bobby Kimball (Toto), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann's Earth Band), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), the late Jack Bruce (Cream), Mike Stern, Al DiMeola, Randy Brecker, David Clayton Thomas, Bill Evans, Simon Phillips, Tony Carey, Richard Bona, and many more.With a mix of pop, jazz-fusion, prog-rock, and World Music, both albums are lively and come across as the 'all-star' collaborations that they are on paper.

Living In the Gap features a wealth of stunning tracks, and it's the collaborative part that really impresses, like the catchy, soaring "Let the Music Show You the Way", with Clayton-Thomas, Thompson and Anderson all singing together, flutes and sax lovingly saddling side by side as Mandoki's gentle percussion percolates underneath. Brecker is always a pleasure, and he makes his presence known on the groove laden "Too Much Pride", while "Welcome to Real Life" attacks with jazz subtlety (love those blazing DiMeola acoustic guitar solos) and hard rock firepower thanks to some heavy riffs and wild Hammond organ flourishes. Hungarian Pictures kicks off with "Sessions in the Village", a mix of piano led jazz that morphs into a classic '70s prog excursion, and the big statement here is "Transylvania Dances" an exotic blend of jazz, classical, and Middle Eastern themes, DiMeola again dropping in some tasty picking surrounded by all sorts of lovely flutes, woodwinds, and strings before the full band come in for a vibrant and raucous finale. "Return to Budapest" recall's Tull's classic track "Budapest" in spots, a highly majestic number with alluring instrumentation and vocals, while "Barbaro" and "The Torch" offer up soaring pop melodies with rock and jazz arrangements.

Leslie Mandoki and Co. have put together a stellar presentation here, not only the music but the accompanying booklet (and the eye opening rest of the package that we were!) as well which provides lyrics, photos, and full synopsis of the entire project. If you love all-star collaborations such as Ayreon and Avantasia, but are looking for something more in a prog & jazz space, Mandoki Soulmates will be right up your alley.

Track Listing
Living In The Gap
1-1 Living In The Gap 7:06
1-2 Young Rebels 4:25
1-3 Turn The Wind 5:17
1-4 Where We Belong 5:05
1-5 Let The Music Show You The Way 4:12
1-6 Too Much Pride 6:54
1-7 Old Rebels 4:43
1-8 Welcome To Real Life 7:45
1-9 Hottest Queen Of Cool 3:46
1-10 Wake Up 4:25
1-11 Mother Europe 3:40
1-12 I'm Not Your Enemy 8:47

Hungarian Pictures
2-1 Sessions In The Village 6:50
2-2 Utopia For Realists 2:09
2-3 Transylvanian Dances 19:02
2-4 You'll Find Me In Your Mirror 2:35
2-5 Return To Budapest 4:36
2-6 Barbaro 4:32
2-7 The Torch 5:51

Added: May 11th 2021
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 782
Language: english

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Mandoki Soulmates: Living in the Gap/Hungarian Pictures
Posted by Eric Porter, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-05-12 02:33:38
My Score:

Mandoki Soulmates is the brainchild of Leslie Mandoki, and his story helps bring perspective to the hopeful tone and spirit of both the lyrics and music. Mandoki fled his native Hungary in 1975 to avoid persecution by the communist regime for being a member of the student opposition. He had been imprisoned 17 times for his political opposition. The idea for this collective of great musicians came during his stay in a refugee camp where Mandoki entered Germany as an illegal immigrant. His dream was to create music with his idols, Ian Anderson, Jack Bruce, and Al DiMeola. Mission not only accomplished, but exceed since their 1993 debut.

This release is really a tale of two CDs, as they are about as opposite from each other as can be. CD1 is titled “Living in the Gap” and falls into an adult contemporary feel, song based, full of melody, it combines funk, jazz, pop and rock. The lyrics reflect Mandoki’s life, and his hope for a better world. The standout tracks are the funky opening title track, “Young Rebels” and the reprised version “Old Rebels”, with a great uplifting chorus. “Mother Europe” is also a poignant piece.

CD2 " Hungarian Pictures is where we find the more adventurous and progressive side of the group. Madoki’s vision was to create a progressive rock opus based on the themes of Bela Bartok. The seeds of this idea came to life during discussions with Jon Lord and Greg Lake, who were both Soulmates. We get amazing piano, Hammond organ, and classical guitar moments throughout. Interspersed, we have bits of Hungarian folk music, to counter some of the more intense classical performances. I love the intensity and fire that comes across on this CD.

There are planned online performances scheduled for November of 2022, and numerous You Tube videos to immerse yourself in the music. Greg Lake once described the Mandoki Soulmates as “one of the best bands you’ll ever hear”. Mandoki deserves credit for bringing these amazing artists from all over the world together to bring his vision to life performing his inspiring music.

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