3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Andre Lewis (Mandre) is perhaps one of musics least know innovators. Despite working as a session musician with a plethora of bands and top stars including Frank Zappa, his name is seldom mentioned when the conversation comes around to those that were the first to push the boundaries. Well, I can confirm here quite definitely that Mandre was a man light years ahead of his time and this album (recorded around 1980) goes part of the way to proving that.
The Mandre story started about 1977 with the release of the space age funk single 'Solar Flight (Opus 1)'. I say funk because that is kind of how Mandre has been pigeonholed over the years but in honesty there is no way to truly describe Mandre's music, classical, jazz, rock, funk, avant garde, disco, they are all in the mix somewhere! Lewis apparently invented his 'Mandre' persona (on the cover of Mandre 1 and 2 he can be seen dressed in a space suit with a futuristic space helmet on) as an image with which to market the kind of funk records an alien from another world might make. Such a sci-fi idea had to have a fresh and totally new approach to back it up musically of course and that is where Lewis drew on all of his considerable musical experience and diverse influences.
All four Mandre albums stick to the sam,e musical pattern. They are split between futuristic instrumental compositions and slightly more familiar George Clinton meets Frank Zappa meets Herbie Hancock like funk covers or workouts. As with all new things though, not all of the ideas work as well as others. Lewis is a pretty weak vocalist as well so some of the funkier tracks don't come off that well and sound a bit lightweight. Add to this copious use of vocoder vocals and phasing and sometimes there is just too much going on at the same time. This especially applies to the track 'I'm On Your Frequency' which sounds very muddy and messy and also on 'You're Freaky Girl' and Freaky Freaky Land Of Freakyness'.
As with all three of his other albums,'Mandre 4's best tracks are its instrumental or semi-instrumental songs. Opener 'Rain' is a six minute space jazz composition that is a delight to listen to. 'Isle De Joie' is another interesting little instrumental. It has a very playful arrangement and lots of hidden depth. 'Fantasy' breaks into backing vocals near the end but is a bit more funky than the two songs before. It is no 'Solar Flight' but it will definitely delight fans of Mandre's earlier work. 'Magic Woman' is the nearest thing to a ballad that we get here. It is engaging and has some great musical moments but like a lot of Mandre's vocal tracks is not a classic. Last track 'Freaky Feeling' is the funkiest thing on this album and the best of its sort too. With a great keyboard riff, it reminds me suspiciously of a space age funk version of Aurra's 'Such A Feeling' - maybe Steve Washington and the band were fan's, who knows?
All in all, Mandre 4 is not the mans best album but it is a very worthy addition to any existing fans collection. If you have never heard of Mandre, perhaps you should try and get a listen to this because he is an acquired taste but if you are already hooked, then buy this because you will not be disappointed.
7 out of 10.