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Mandoki Soulmates: Utopia For Realists - Hungarian Pictures - The Visual Album

The story of Leslie Mandoki is one of enduring, exploration and resilience. Born in Hungary, the composer and instrumentalist fled his home country to escape persecution and repeated arrests as he became part of the student opposition to the then communist dictatorship. Making West Germany his home, Mandoki continued musical studies that he had began in his home country and eventually gave birth to the enduring, if sporadic, Mandoki Soulmates. An ever evolving outfit, in truth the ‘band’ is a vehicle for the main-man behind it to bring his music to reality but, with Utopia For Realists, the cast who helped make this album verges on the incredible - Bobby Kimball, Chris Thompson, Ian Anderson, Jack Bruce, Nick van Eede, Al di Meola, Randy Brecker, John Helliwell, Simon Phillips and Tony Carey merely the biggest name in a glittering ensemble. Thankfully, unlike so many albums of this ilk, the result doesn’t slump to the ground under the weight of those involved.

Based on the works of Bartok, the whole piece eases smoothly between straight up soft rock, progressive fusion, violin led art rock and classical. It’s a feat achieved with much less fuss and friction than might be expected, a mixture of epic pieces such as the 26 minute “Transylvanian Dances” fused to short sharp incursions used as a clever idea jumping vehicles. In truth, I found initial encounters with this album to be fun, if hardly invigorating but as the intricate arrangements bed in and the vast array of instrumental choices become ever clearer, so the whole endeavour begins to show a real depth and one which to me seriously grows over time. That’s not to say that the choice to move things back into a surprisingly straight ahead soft rock situation to allow some of the more varied instrumental slots to shine isn’t a little cloying, but that tendency aside, much of this album makes a very strong impression.

Initially released in 2020, for this reissue, Mandoki has teamed up with prog-masters Inside Out in the hope of reaching a far wider audience with his ambitious work. However, not content with a straight re-release, this time Utopia For Realists - Hungarian Pictures arrives with a DVD subtitled The Visual Album. Now, if the original release is good, if not quite spectacular, I must admit that an extra half-star has been added to this review’s score based on the visual journey that opens this album up ever further. Part live performance celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, part visual album accompaniment, and part documentary, the whole experience comes across as remarkably well thought out and an absolute joy to watch. I’d also go as far as to suggest that it helps Utopia For Realists make a whole lot more sense as a piece of art and not just an engaging, eclectic album.

Intricate, involved and ambitious, if ever so slightly flawed, this latest release from Mandoki Soulmates is very interesting indeed, and with the visual element added, it also becomes a hugely rewarding experience.

Track Listing

1. Sessions In The Village 

2. Utopia For Realists

3. Transylvanian Dances

4. You’ll Find Me In Your Mirror 

5. Return To Budapest

6. Barbaro 

7. The Torch


1. Session In The Village Live In Berlin 

2. Utopia For Realists Live In Berlin

3. Transylvanian Dances Live In Berlin 

4. You’ll Find Me In Your Mirror Live In Berlin 

5. Return To Budapest Live In Berlin 

6. Pre-Barbaro Live In Berlin 

7. The Torch Live In Berlin

8. Intro The Movies

9. Session In The Village The Movies 

10. Transylvanian Dances The Movies 

11. The Truth Behind The Dance The Movies 

12. Cedar Of Life The Movies 

13. Session In The Academy The Movies 

14. Utopia For Realists The Movies 

15. Children’s Dance The Movies 

16. You’ll Find Me In Your Mirror The Movies 

17. New York The Movies 

18. Furioso The Movies 

19. The Torch The Movies 
20. Behind The Scenes

Added: December 17th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Mandoki Soulmates online
Hits: 1163
Language: english

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