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Mandala - Soul Crusade

Soul Crusade
Atlantic - 1968

Michael Panontin
After the success of their top-ten corker 'Opportunity', the Mandala seemed destined for opportunities of their own. Their manager Rafael Markowitz (aka Randy Martin) had early on hooked the band up with top U.S. booking agents William Morris, leading to gigs at L.A.'s Whiskey a Go-Go and Hullabaloo clubs - with the latter drawing capacity crowds of 1,400 fawning fans - as well as some extended jaunts in the Big Apple in early 1967. They returned to Toronto that summer as the unofficial flag-bearers of the "Toronto Sound", a gutsy amalgam of r'n'b and soul that was filling the clubs up and down the Yonge Street strip that year.

It was at this point, however, that their luck started to lose steam. First, internal bickering caused them to shelve the initial tapes to their first and only LP Soul Crusade, and then singer George Olliver succumbed to the stresses of constant performing and left. By the spring of 1968, with the band spinning their wheels big time, Atlantic Records bossman Ahmet Ertugan bought out their contract from Decca records, and Soul Crusade was finally given widespread release. Much of Soul Crusade is longer on chops than on actual songwriting, with Henry Babraj's industrial-strength Hammond organ and Domenic Troiano's blistering guitar beefing up the rock end of this rock/soul stew. New singer Roy Kenner's powerful pipes allowed him to take the helms with relative ease and lead single 'Love-itis', while hardly another 'Opportunity', was soul-stomping enough to climb to number nine on Toronto's CHUM-AM charts. Especially cool is the lazy 'Stop Crying on My Shoulder', where the band take a bit of a breather to naively explore some Chicago-style northern soul.

However, though buoyed by generally positive reviews, the band had to scrap a planned tour across Canada after bassist Don Elliot was involved in a car accident. A final single, 'You Got Me', showed that the band still had the goods, but its dismal sales would spell the end, with Troiano taking his considerable guitar skills to form the funky blues/rock outfit Bush in 1970.

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