Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Fencewalk" by Mandrill

This powerful funk track was Mandrill’s biggest hit and garnered the influential multi-genre band a flock of new fans upon its release in 1973.  The groove kicks off with a blaring horn volley that sounds like a runaway freight train. And what a groove it is: kinetic wah-wah guitar licks; punchin’ horn lines; a wicked bass line and a monster beat.  The track also boasts a blistering guitar solo from Mandrill axe-man Omar Mesa and some very funky clavinet work from keyboardist Claude “Coffee” Cave.  And the unison-sung lead vocals give the track a raw, soulful feel.

The track was written by the Panama-born Wilson brothers (Ric, Lou and Carlos), who co-founded Mandrill in 1968.  It was a single from the band's third studio album, Composite Truth (1973), which was their most commercially successful album. The song saw significant chart action, climbing to #19 on the U.S. Billboard Soul Singles chart and peaking at #52 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Fencewalk” is Mandrill’s most recognized song and has been sampled by several hip-hop artists, including Ice Cube (“Givin’ Up the Nappy Dugout”) and Cypress Hill (“The Funky Cypress Hill Shit”). And critically acclaimed R&B artist D’Angelo performed an excellent cover of the song at a 1995 concert in London. The performance is featured on his album Live at the Jazz Café, London, which was originally released in 1996 and later reissued this year.

The lineup for Mandrill at the time they dropped “Fencewalk” was the following: “Sweet Lou” Wilson (trumpet, percussion, vocals); Claude “Coffee” Cave (keyboards, vibraphone, percussion, vocals); Omar Mesa (lead guitar, percussion, vocals); Fudgie Kae (bass, percussion, acoustic guitar, vocals); Carlos Wilson (saxophone, trombone, flute, guitar, vocals); Neftali Santiago (drums, percussion, vocals); and Ric “Doc” Wilson (trombone, flute, saxophone, guitar, timbales, drums, percussion, vocals).

Mandrill was one of the most progressive funk bands on the scene in the 1970s and is considered one of the key pioneers in the development of World Music. Their eclectic sound is a dynamic fusion of jazz, funk, Afro-Caribbean, rock, Latin, soul, psychedelia and blues.  They have even influenced major ‘70s funk/R&B acts such as Parliament/Funkadelic and Earth, Wind & Fire.

"Fencewalk" at Amazon

Related blog entry: Here Today Gone Tomorrow by Mandrill

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