Opportunity was the debut single for The Mandala, the five-piece house band at Toronto’s The Club Bluenote, where they backed U.S. soul and R & B performers. The Mandala also had performed at Ronnie Hawkins’s talent-rich The Hawk’s Nest before landing gigs to wild capacity crowds in late 1966 at the Hollywood clubs Whiskey-A-Go-Go and The Hullabaloo.
Building on their Hollywood success, The Mandala recorded Opportunity as a debut single for Chess Records’ subsidiary KR, at Chess’s Chicago studios, with Troiano producing. Lead singer George Olliver’s gritty no-holds-barred vocals told the story of an ambitious and optimistic orphan seeking that one big break. Polished backing vocals by doo-wop multi-million-sellers The Dells singing “Opportunity, that’s what I need” planted the single firmly in a soul-R & B vibe.
The Mandala, with three members from Europe, became one of the few all-Caucasian groups to enjoy success in the soul or R & B genres. As George Olliver told radio interviewer Bill King: “You know, we had a lot of airplay down there and people just loved the live performance …. There were only about two or three other white R & B bands and in the United States at the time that had a recording.”
The 45-rpm single of Opportunity (KR 0115), with Lost Love on the B side, was released in late January 1967. It immediately entered Toronto’s CHUM chart at No. 40 and rose quickly to No. 3 by February 20. (The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday was No. 1). Indeed, CHUM and CKFH in Toronto are said to have broadcast Opportunity within an hour of receiving it. The disc resided on the CHUM chart for eight weeks in all and was a CHUM Pop Pick.
The song took a bit longer to be recognized by RPM, but reached No. 72 on that national chart in late March and was No. 11 on RPM’s CanCon chart in a month dominated by legends The Guess Who and Gordon Lightfoot.
Promotion of Opportunity included a performance on CTV’s show “W5” for a crowd of screaming youth. Unusually, Opportunity was not included on a Mandala album, although the band was immensely popular live through southern Ontario, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, and especially in Detroit and in New York City at Steve Paul’s The Scene.
“Billboard” magazine called The Mandala “Canada’s hottest soul group.” Songwriter Troiano told interviewer Erick Nelson that “Musically and spiritually Mandala was light years ahead … there is no disputing how powerful the band was live.”
Opportunity can also be heard on the remastered 1985 “Mandala Classic” album, the compilation “Made in Canada: Our Rock ‘n’ Roll History,” and “The Best of Domenic Troiano.”
In 1996 Troiano, Olliver and their band performed Opportunity at Troiano’s induction to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Domenic “Donnie” (Michaele Antonio) Troiano was born in Italy in 1946 and came to Canada as a child. He became a nationally known rock guitarist, playing with Ronnie Hawkins and then The Mandala. After Mandala disbanded, Troiano played with The James Gang and The Guess Who, and became a successful record producer and television composer. Troiano passed away from cancer in 2005.