On the album "Hungarian Pictures" (2019) music producer Leslie Mandoki realized the original ideas of the two ex-Soulmates Jon Lord (Deep Purple) and Greg Lake (ELP) to create an ambitious fusion of Prog and Jazz after the classical example of the Hungarian Béla Bartók (instead of the Russian Modest Mussorgski - we remember ELP's "Pictures At An Exhibition" from 1971). To this end, he has now made "Utopia For Realists", a so-called "visual album" that fuses the Soulmates' concert film for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with animated paintings as well as landscape shots to create a new kind of experience. Together with animator Gábor Csupó, Mandoki once fled through the Iron Curtain from Hungary to Germany in 1975
eclipsed: How was the feedback from the prog scene on "Hungarian Pictures"?
Leslie Mandoki: The feedback has been phenomenal, especially from the prog scene. This is certainly the most ambitious and best work of ours. After 30 years of Soulmates, we owed it to our audience. Musically, it's so special because British prog rock was always my teenage dream, just thinking about Jethro Tull, King Crimson or ELP. But at the same time I was fascinated by the incredible virtuosity of fusion musicians like Al Di Meola. Combining that was, is and always will be my vision, and it was best realized on this album, which realized the idea of Greg Lake and Jon Lord to re-score the music of Béla Bartók. Finally, the rights were free for this. Unfortunately, Greg and Jon had previously lost their battle with cancer.
eclipsed: How did this concept of releasing "Hungarian Pictures" again as well as a mixed media concert on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall come about? It could also have been a pure concert video release?
Mandoki: We also remixed the album itself, adding live parts and new solos. But the new idea was to make a new kind of "visual album" on Blu-ray. It consists of several elements that were mixed together in a completely new way: We had the concert itself and then studio recordings of the album. In addition, just before the pandemic, we went to the area where Bartók wrote those wonderful folk songs that were the musical basis, and filmed the landscape with drones. Then my friend, the animator Gábor Csupó, animated oil paintings in three dimensions, and we got elaborate computer simulations to go with it. People get something completely new: a one-hour prog suite as a visually animated album.