Exposé Online banner

Mandrake Paddle Steamer — Pandemonium Shadow Show
(Guerssen Sommor SOMM045, 1970/2019, CD / LP / DL)

by Henry Schneider, Published 2019-06-23

Pandemonium Shadow Show Cover art

During their short life as a band (1967 - 1970), Brit psych group Mandrake Paddle Steamer opened for the likes of Pink Floyd, The Nice, and Vanilla Fudge, as well as performing at the Isle of Wight Festival. Signed to the Parlophone label, though they really wanted to be on Harvest, they released their single “Strange Walking Man” in 1969, now widely regarded as a lost Brit psych classic. But due to lack of promotion and label support, their single went nowhere, with the band eventually splitting in 1970. Unlike other 60s Brit bands that morphed into psych or prog rock, Mandrake Paddle Steamer was conceived as psych and prog by a group of art school students: Brian Engel, Martin Briley, Paul(a) Riordan, Martin Hooker, and Barry Nightingale (later replaced by David Potts). Pandemonium Shadow Show gathers a number of studio recordings from 1968 and 1970, recorded at various studios around London. Some tracks have been previously released on bootleg albums with inferior sound and wrong titles, while the others have been unreleased until now. As such Guerssen did their best to place these songs in a sequence that flows. Interestingly, Pandemonium Shadow Show is also the name of Harry Nilsson’s second album released in 1967. Harry had wanted to name his album Something Wicked This Way Comes from Ray Bradbury’s novel, but permission did not arrive in time. The Mandrakes apparently loved Bradbury as well, with the new album opening with the hard rocking psych-garage band title track that is named after the circus sideshow from Bradbury’s novel. Plus there is a lyric late in the song that quotes the novel's title. The second song is “Solitair Husk” with throbbing bass and fantastically gothic Hammond organ riff, conjuring visions of vampires. Next is the quiet “Stella Mermaid” that launches of into a seething sea of prog psych rock. This track is followed by the trippy “The World Whistles By” that is heavily dominated by Hammond organ and effects. Then we encounter “Upminster Windows,” which is a combination of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, and early The Who, with a number of mood changes across its five minutes. Next is “Doris the Piper” that made me think of The Who’s song title “Boris the Spider,” but the song is entirely different. “Doris the Piper” is a dark, sinister psych rocker in a minor key about the succubus Doris. “The Doorway to January” is a slow bluesy instrumental that reaches a fantastic prog rock climax with great Hammond organ riffing calling to mind The Doors and Iron Butterfly. The album reaches its peak with “Simple Song” that is not at all simple. This instrumental is chock full of interesting lines and solos to create a prog rock masterpiece. The album closes with another Ray Bradbury reference, “The October Country,” named after this 1955 short story collection. This closing song has a rapidly modulating organ, odd structures, and eerie Mellotron for an experimental and trippy song inspired by Bradbury’s stories. Guerssen has done an outstanding job on this reissue that is sure to please all lovers of vintage psych/prog rock.


Filed under: Archives, 2019 releases, 1970 recordings

Related artist(s): Mandrake Paddle Steamer

More info
http://guerssenrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pandemonium-shadow-show

Latest news

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Eric Roberts - In a Silent Place – Eric Roberts is a bassist who has logged many hours supporting big name acts over the years and this is his recorded debut as a guitarist. Although largely a solo effort, he does get help from a few...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues