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8/23/2011 9:28:10 AM

Somewhere in my loft is a copy of a vinyl record given to me by a friend many years ago.  It is called The Eye Of Wendor by the Mandala band, the driving force and founder of whom is David Rohl.

My memory of this album has been somewhat jaded by the passing of time, though I can remember that I used to enjoy its content very much. It was only by chance on a recent visit to my friend and Muso Brendan Eyre’s house that he mentioned the new album by The Mandalaband or Mandalaband 3 in its latest guise. Brendan played me a couple of songs and i was smitten.

I decided to check out the Manadalaband website to find out more. Having contacted them to acquire a demo copy of their new album, a copy of the bands previous album BC-ancestors was sent to Progmeister towers for our perusal. We have since been assured by David Rohl himself that a copy of the latest production is winging its way to us. In the meantime I decided to hear what the Mandalaband of the millennium sounded like.

Looking at the package as a whole I have to report that it is not shabby. This is indeed a quality item with thought given to all aspects of the whole experience. Comprehensive notes and credits leave the listener wondering about nothing with regard to what the album is about or the myriad of musician’s contributions. The biblical mood is beautifully captured by Ed Utininsky’s formidable artwork and artist who by now must be heralded as the new Roger Dean.

BC-Ancestors Mandalaband 3was recorded 2007-2009 and is described unashamedly as symphonic rock. This became evident from the first few bars of the overture simply entitled Ancestors. Mr Rohl himself gainfully employed here on piano and synths aided and abetted by a Stella cast of quality musicians set the mood for the following thirteen fascinating musical excursions.

“Eden” finds David in fine voice sounding not unlike the late Eric Woolfson. Indeed the album does have a feel of The Alan Parsons Project.  Orchestration throughout the album is exemplary ranging from being eerie to downright epic. David Rohl and cohort Jose Manuel Medina blended huge orchestration with traditional instruments to make a massive historical picture in the listener’s mind’s eye.

Great to hear Woolly Wolstenholme Playing and singing on “Nimrod”. This song is certainly as good as anything he ever did with BJH and finds him assisting with the orchestration duties too. Woolly certainly left his mark on the album singing both this track and the finale “Roots”. “Shemsu-Har” puts you right in the middle of the desert gazing at the sphinx, pyramids and the grandeur of the Valley of the Kings. Such is its power and majesty. Indeed many of the tracks on this album fail in no way at all in sharing mood provoking atmosphere.

A perfect example of this would be “Akhiyawa” in which David Rohl again utilises modern electronica with traditional instruments demonstrating his vast experience in musical texture and timing to create a vision. The guitar playing throughout the album is nothing shy of spectacular. Ashley Mulford (Sad Café) Played some blinding guitar breaks throughout, yet showed a delicate almost blues touch on the delightful “Elissa” which finds David singing in Harmony with Barbara Macanas.

If you are interested in history, and like me become involved in the musical landscapes conjured up by composers who work with film and other such media, then BC-Ancestors by the brethren of musicians known as Mandalaband 3 is an absolute must have. It is a compelling listen and exudes quality both in its production and presentation. The songs on this album represent the history of the world 5,000 years before Christ. I can’t wait to listen to the next edition AD-Sangreal. Watch this space.

BC-Ancestors £11 Plus P+P from






8/10/2011 4:55:04 AM

It’s taken me a while to get round to reviewing Sean Filkins war and peace & other short stories. I first heard excerpts from the album on ARFM’s Soundscapes and became instantly intrigued. From the outset this album holds the listeners attention and interest not only in the musical landscape painted by each ensemble the majority of which I would describe as epic.

In times of beige carpets and plain walls Mr Filkins has returned to rich tapestry and Persian rugs. By this analogy I refer to the use of every part of the soundstage utilising many talents and resources not least himself.  Ably and abetted by ex- Galahad bass player Lee Abraham playing everything but the kitchen sink as well as a host of Prog dignitaries and even family members, Sean Filkins  avoids revisiting the basic prog format and going in the opposite direction too and becoming a heavy metal advocate.


Looking at the cover and elaborate booklet made me think that this really is a nice album to have in any collection. The artwork is all relevant and well presented, though, I was a bit surprised that Mr Filkins needed to display his gluteal attributes whist being stared at by a bewildered canine. As I said,  it all seems relevant.


Such is the content of this album that however lengthy this review may become it will be but a synopsis. One thing that was noticed is that this is one of those events best experienced on a good hi-fi to fully appreciate its content and grandeur.  I was very fortunate enough to have been sent track notations by Sean explaining what each track is all about and I must admit to being one up on the average punter. Still, it’s for the listener to decide for themselves and interpret as they feel.


“Are You Sitting Comfortably” is but a recording of someone enjoying a cup of tea with a biscuit accompanied by a brass band playing Jerusalem, and is indeed the first part of the following song “The English eccentric”.  “The English Eccentric” was the first of the songs that I heard from Sean and instantly fell in love with it. Leaping at you with a wasp like synth opening almost like a fanfare Sean’s voice is set within a myriad of guitar, electronic drum software and keyboards before being bolstered by the sumptuous bass of Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard).


For such a musical happening, all of the songs have a rich lyrical presence encouraging a constant revisiting of songs in order to grasp their meaning. This album really is money well spent.  Because some of the songs are so long it was found that  as much enjoyment could be had by playing songs in isolation as well as the album in it’s entirety.


Moving on to the Roger Waters type opening of “Prisoner Of Conscience” I was consumed by the depth and diversity demonstrated throughout this piece. The differences in musical styles and instrumentation make the story told by this rock operetta something rather special.  Using instruments such as Tabla, Garima, Sitar and even a didgeridoo brought about a “world music” feel to the opening segment of the song. I even found myself accepting the more grunge type guitar chops of which I don’t usually care for.  John Mitchell (Arena/It Bites) guitar playing is brisk and very much up beat although at times can become a bit Bill and Ted!


Split into two parts, part one being “The Soldier” and part two “The Ordinary man”, “Prisoner Of Conscience is about Sean’s maternal grandfather who went missing in world war two whilst out on patrol.  Should any more about the tales and stories need clarification I would suggest visiting Sean’s website www.seanfilkinsmusic.co.uk  . “The Ordinary Man has keyboard man John Sammes (Indigo Pilots) playing some fine synth and Mellotron sounds whilst John Mitchell brings the piece to a burning conclusion.


Sean’s daughter Abigail assists the dramatic beginnings of “Epitaph For A Mariner” by singing the traditional hymn “sailors Hymn” (for those in peril on the sea etc.) Another twenty minute job split into five parts, all the elements of which I found fascinating. The piece is all about Sean’s great grandfather William Pull who was lost at sea off the coast of Margate during a violent storm. There is a lot more besides to this tale, though again I would urge you to check out Sean’s website if you want to know more. Yet again I found myself using the word epic. The list of recruits on this song is endless, some well-known and some not as well-known like Gerald Mulligan who’s deft of touch with his drums made for some compulsive listening.


The beautiful finale of the album is an original instrumental piece from 1996 written by Geoff Webb who also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards not only here but elsewhere on the album. Originally entitled “Pastoral” Sean heard the piece whilst recording in the studio at which Geoff was employed. The slowest and sweetest of all the songs on the album it exudes optimism. I identified with this song as it is all about coming to terms with one’s past working towards a brighter future. Good to hear the reprise of the sitar and tabla drums linking the songs with the previous gems.


Bringing all to a satisfactory conclusion using Mellotron sounds, mandolin and other such Prog weaponry leaves the listener in no uncertain doubt in which genre Sean Filkins sits comfortably into. I commend him for thinking outside of the box. For utilising the talents of expert help and artistry, returning to the roots of telling great stories using music. I can forgive him for the public display of his ageing yet pert posterior but I would council against the wearing of yellow Dr Martin boots or indeed the promotion of such items.


If like we do you love prog rock then you would be ill-advised to miss out on this diamond of an album. My advice is to log on to www.seanfilkinsmusic.co.uk and order yourself a copy whist you still can.


No animals were hurt during the making of “War And Peace & other short Stories”.


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