Mandrake Memorial, The


Band members               Related acts

- Craig Anderton -- guitar, sitar, synthesizers (1967-70)

- Michael Kac -- keyboards, vocals (1967-69)

- Randy Monaco (RIP 198?) -- vocals, bass (1967-70)

- J. Kevin Lally -- drums, percussion (1967-70)

 

 

- 1910 Fruitgum Company (Randy Monaco)

- Craig Anderton (solo efforts)

- Anamoly (Craig Anderton)

- Cat's Cradle (Michael Kac)

- The Flowers of Evil (Craig Anderton)

- Michael Kac and Linda Cohen

- The Novae Police (Kevin Lally and Randy Monaco)

 

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Mandrake Memorial

Company: Poppy

Catalog: PYS-40,002

Year: 1968

Country/State: Philadelphia, PA

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: small cut out hole bottom right corner

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4579

Price: $50.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Not as well known as The Nazz, Lother and the Hand People, or some of the city's soul bands, but The Mandrake Memorial may be my favorite 1960s Philadelphia band ... 

 

Attending the University of Pennsylvania, guitarist Craig Anderton found time to play in an outfit called The Flowers of Evil.  Keyboardist Michael Kac started out as a folkie playing Philadelphia coffee houses, before hooking up with Cat's Cradle.  Drummer J. Kevin Lally and singer/bassist Randy Monaco cut their professional teeth in the New York City based The Novae Police.  The four came together through Philadelphia promoter Larry Schriver, who was looking for a group to serve as the house band for Manny Rubin's Philadelphia-based The Trauma Club.  

 

With help from Rubin, the quartet began an in-demand local act, opening up for various nationally known touring bands, including a date opening for The Strawberry Alarm Clock.  They apparently severely upstaged the Alarm Clock, the resulting buzz saw them start to attract attention beyond Philly including touring throughout the Northeast, eventually catching the attention of the MGM affiliated Poppy Records.  Signed to the label, the band's cleverly-titled "The Mandrake Memorial" debut teamed them with producers Anthony Bongiovi and Tony Camillo.  Musically their debut's quite entertaining with tracks like 'Bird Journey' and 'Rainy May' showcasing their unique line up of Anderton's angular guitar and Kac's electric harpsichord.  Propelled by Monaco's likeable voice, the album's full of strong melodies, with some great harmonies and surprisingly catchy lite-psych moves.  Sure, some of the lyrics haven't aged particularly well, but so what.  There really isn't a bad song on the LP (how often can you say something like that?).  Personal favorites include 'Here I Am' (sporting a killer lead guitar from Anderton), the sitar and feedback propelled 'Dark Lady' and the aptly titled 'Strange'.  (Got to admit that I've always wondered why this one gets ignored by everyone in favor of "Puzzle".)  Anyone know who the female singer that pops in from time to time is?  Linda Cohen?      

 

"The Mandrake Memorial" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Bird Journey   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 2:40

2.) Here I Am   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 3:50

3.) Rainy May   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 3:45

4.) This Can't Be Real   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 3:45

5.) Dark Lady   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 4:14

 

(side 2)
1.) House of Mirrors   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 2:28

2.) To a Lonely   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 3:50

3.) Strange   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 3:55

4.) Next Number   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 4:11

5.) Sunday Noon   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) - 7:08

 

 

 

 


Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Medium

Company: Poppy

Catalog: PYS-40,003

Year: 1969

Country/State: Philadelphia, PA

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: small cut out hole bottom right corner

Available: SOLD

GEMM catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD

 

Produced by Tony Camillo and Tony Bongiovi, 1969's "Medium" had a distinctively different vibe than the debut.  Whereas the debut exhibited a certain degree of raw, on-the-spur-of-the-moment garage edge and the accompanying band cohesiveness (a reflection of the fact the debut LP essentially captured what was then their stage act), the sophomore LP was a far more serious - almost dour endeavor.  Supported by a far bigger recording budget, the four principals were clearly interested in expanding their musical palate and making some sort of statement (I think the term of art was 'stretching').  Echoing some of the Airplane's recent moves, tracks like the lysergic 'After Pascal' also made it clear these guys had been listening to some of their West Coast competition.  Featuring all original, group penned material, tracks like the droning 'Witness The End' (with some truly killer bass work from Monaco), the ballad 'Celebration' and the psychedelic blow-out 'Smokescreen' featured far more complex and innovative arrangements than found on the debut.  Songs like 'Other Side' also marked the introduction of Kac's use of an electric harpsichord.  Momentarily kind of intriguing, it was also an effect that quickly wore out it's welcome.  On about half the album the new, more 'relevant' approached worked fairly well.  In contrast, on compositions like the lead off 'Snake Charmer' the results came off as kitchy, pompous and occasionally simply dull.  Maybe a stretch, but while still recognizable as a Mandrake Memorial album, the results occasionally sounded like four separate folks taking solo spots with backing from the others - hum there's kind of a "White Album" comparison in there.  Perhaps best called a transitional album, I will tell you the the set's darker and disturbed tone grows on you with multiple spins.

 

inner sleeve photo by Elbert Budin

 

"Medium" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Snake Charmer   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

2.) Witness The End   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

3.) Celebration   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

4.) Other Side   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

5.) Last Number   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac) 

 

(side 2)
1.) After Pascal   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

2.) Smokescreen   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

3.) Barnaby Plum   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

4.) Cassandra   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally - Michael Kac)

 

Kac subsequently parted ways with the band, pursuing a career with classical guitarist Linda Cohen.

 


 


Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Puzzle

Company: Poppy

Catalog: PYS-40,006

Year: 1969

Country/State: Philadelphia, PA

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: promo copy drilled into lower right corner; gatefold sleeve; original inner sleeve; includes the rare circular insert

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4578

Price: $120.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Philadelphia meets Pink Floyd ...  Sound weird?  It is, but it's also one of the handful of albums I own that deserves a four star rating.

 

For a band that started out with a serious Beatles fixation, 1969's "Puzzle" is a major change in musical direction.  As the band's third and final album, the project actually had an interesting, if troubled history.  Following keyboardist Michael Kac's departure to pursue a career with classical guitarist Linda Cohen, the remaining trio (guitarist Craig Anderton, bassist Randy Monaco and drummer J. Kevin Lally) packed up for the UK where they recorded an acoustic album with producer Shel Talmy.  Poppy Records executives hated the results and the tapes were promptly shelved, leaving the trio to rework the material in New York with producer Ron Frangipane.

 

Clad in a striking M.C. Escher design (wonder how much it cost to get rights to the images), the album seems to have been conceived as a concept piece, though I've got to admit I don't have a clue what that concept is.  (If you read German, the inner sleeve verbiage may provide a clue.)  Whatever the intent, tracks such as 'Earthfriend Prelude' and 'Kyrie' have a distinctive pseudo-religious flavor.  Completed with elaborate orchestration, instrumental preludes, extended musical segue ways and lots of electronic noddling, this is about as far removed from the band's earlier top-40 orientation as it gets.  Geez, 'Children's Prayer' even includes a children's chorus.  In its place material such as 'Earthfriend', 'Hiding' and 'Tadpole' flows along in a thick and trippy stupor.  That may sound like a stupid analogy, but propelled by Monaco's slewed vocals (he literally sounds stoned throughout), weird time signatures and production effects, oddball synthesizer blips and some truly weird lyrics (check out Ocean's Daughter' and 'Whisper Play'), it's an apt description.  The entire second side complete with sound effects, backward tapes and other effects makes for a great headphones experience.  The band didn't entirely abandon their knack for commercial material, with 'Just a Blur' (presented in three separate versions) and the title track standing as catchy as anything on their first or second releases.  One final comment - clocking it at almost 50 minutes, this is one long album.


"Puzzle" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Earthfriend Prelude (instrumental)   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 2:49

2/) Earthfriend   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 6:17

3.) Just a Blur (Version 1)   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 0:53

4.) Hiding   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 3:15

5.) Just a Blur (Version 2)   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 0:51

6.) Tadpole   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 2:25

7.) Kyrie   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally)- 3:24

8.) Ocean's Daughter   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 3:24

 

(side 2)
1.) Volcano Prelude (instrumental)   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 2:08

2.) Volcano   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 5:59

3.) Whisper Play   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 3:00

4.) Bucket of Air    (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally)- 9:37

5.) Children's Prayer   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 3:25

6.) Puzzle   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 3:08

7.) Just a Blur (Version 3)   (Craig Anderton - Randy Monaco - J. Kevin Lally) - 0:51

 

One last non-LP single, a cover of the Thunderclap Newman hit 'Something In the Air' b/w 'Musical Man' (Poppy catalog number 90103) and the band was history.

 

 

Monaco was briefly a member of The 1910 Fruitgum Company, before turning his attention to the production side of the business (Rufus, Three Dog Night, etc.)  He died of a heart attack in the late 1990s.  

 

Anderton formed the band Anomaly, recorded at least one new age influenced solo set (which I've never heard) and went on to make a name for himself writing about electronic music.  He also has an interesting website located at: 

 

http://www.craiganderton.com/about.htm

 

Kac moved to California before becoming a linguistics and philosophy instructor at the University of Minnesota.  In 2002 he recorded an album ("Naked Under the Moon") with long time friend/guitarist Linda Cohen (it was produced by Anderton).  He also has an interesting website at:

 

  http://www.kac-cohen.com

 

 

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