David Rohl is a true Renaissance man ... recording engineer, producer, musician (including composing soundtracks for film and television), photographer (an example can be seen on the gate fold cover of The Moody Blues album A QUESTION OF BALANCE), and noted Egyptologist and author with about a half dozen published books under his belt (one of which became a three-part documentary for The Discovery Channel). So it should comes as no surprise that when a man of Role's many talents decided to form a musical project it wouldn't be a simple twelve-bar blues band. The challenges of progressive rock and the limitless possibilities the genre provided would be a perfect fit for his scope and vision.
His ever-evolving project Mandalaband has a longstanding history dating as far back as 1975 when the band (actually more of a collection of contributing artists) appeared on the Chrysalis label. The early incarnation of the band incorporated the talents of prog legends Woolly Wolstenholme of Barclay James Harvest, Moody Blues front man Justin Hayward, Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior, and 10CC as part of Rohl's progressive rock ensemble. Each album was a sprawling eclectic concept album steeped in mythological themes. The albums were a modest success in England, Australia and parts of Europe but failed to make a mark in the US progressive market.
Fast forward to 2011 and Rohl's newest incarnation ... Mandalaband IV ... and the release of his most impressive work to date 'AD Sangreal', a true masterpiece, and one of the best concept albums that I've heard in a log time. 'AD Sangreal' tells the story of the Romano-Spanish legend of the Holy Grail - the cup used by Jesus Christ to celebrate the Eucharist at the Last Supper on the night before his Crucifixion - and the ensuing journey of this holy relic through the ages where it passes from the hands of royalty, noblemen, clergy, the Knights Templar and eventually finding a permanent home in the city of Valencia where it remains today's, in a chapel within the cathedral.
Musically the album is strong from beginning to end; a sweeping powerful epic without a shred of filler, extended fretboard gymnastics or endless keyboard noodling. The material is a melodic blend of Celtic and middle eastern motifs with all the power and passion befitting the monumental sojourn of this sacred artifact.
The album is very reminiscent of the ambitious concept albums JABBERWOCKY or THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES from Clive Noland and Oliver Wakeman, as well as the collective work of THE ALAN PARSON PROJECT. The musical compositions, orchestration, performances, and production is flawless, as one might expect from Producer/Engineer Rohl who has engineered projects for artists like Marc Boland, Thin Lizzy, Barclay James Harvest, Sad Cafe, Maddy Prior, Tim Hart and Roy Hill.
The extended line-up for the album includes:
It's a sad but true statement of fact that about 85 % of the CDs that pass through my hands for review are listened to two or three times before writing my final review, then seldom if ever get another spin on the CD player. But every once in a while a bona fide gem makes it's way into my hands for review that becomes a part of my regular rotation ... and 'AD Sangreal' has become a fast favorite of not only myself - but my wife as well - making it one of the most listened to albums in the Shingler household. Highly recommended.
- DAVID ROHL / Writer, Engineer, Producer and Keyboards
- ASHLEY MULFORD / guitars
- WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME / Mellotron & Keyboards
- KIM TURNER / Drums & Percussion
- TROY DONOCKLEY / Uilleann Pipes, Whistles & Guitars
- JOSE MANUEL MEDINA / Keyboards
- MARC ATKINSON / Vocals
- GEOFFREY RICHARDSON / Violin, Viola, Flute, Clarinet & guitars
- CRAIG FLETCHER / Bass Guitar
- BARBARA & BRIONY MACANAS / Vocals
- DAVE DURANT/Lead Vocals
- DAVID 'CLEM' CLEMENTS, PABLO LATA & MORTEN VESTERGAAD/Bass Guitars
- ALISON CARTER & LYNDA HOWARD/ Backing Vocals
*As a sad footnote to this marvelous album it marks the unexpected passing of keyboardist, singer, composer, and orchestrator Wolly Wolstenholme who passed away on December 13th 2010. Rohl dedicated the album to the memory of his collaborator and good friend.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on October 25th, 2011