1972 Case File #96.


Harvey Mandel, The Snake

File Between: John Lee Hooker and Wes Montgomery

Comments: Mandel is a blues-rock guitarist with a slightly more advanced harmonic sense than the general run of blues-rock guitarists; at his best he approaches the liquid joy of someone like Duane Allman; at his worst he’s a less-textural Jeff Beck. The Snake is one of a handful of solo records he released in between stints in Little Feat, John Mayall’s band, and one- or two-off collaborations with similarly-minded fellow travellers. It’s instrumental except for one cut, “Uno Ino,” on which he united a John Lee Hooker bookie to a high, wispy vocal and sounds like a cut-rate Marc Bolan. The rest is perfectly serviceable instrumental rock, “tasty” if that communicates anything to you, and never too inexcusably noodly if it doesn’t. Nothing revelatory, but if it’s your bag, you’ll dig it.

A Keeper? Instrumental rock is always a tricky proposition; unlike jazz, it can’t really just set a mood or fade into the background: it demands you pay attention to it, and then too often refuses to reward the attention. Mandel does not manage to satisfactorily square the circle.

Vinyl Rip: Pegasus

3 Thoughts on “1972 Case File #96.

  1. KidSeltzer on December 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm said:

    Wow, your explanation of instrumental rock pretty much defines the genre. I’ve wondered how the recording engineers stayed focussed, since they weren’t busy with an instrument.

  2. KidSeltzer on December 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm said:

    Also! I neglected to add “Thanks!” Love this blog.

  3. chris bartle on March 1, 2013 at 8:42 am said:

    great analysis of instrumental rock – thank you for clarifying that! maybe you should mention that “Cristo Redentor” is one of the very best instrumental rock albums anybody ever made, and that Mandel’s guitar work with Charlie Musselwhite (1967) on “Stand Back!” is simply awesome, even now, and that he played with Canned Heat (not sure why his work with them wasn’t as amazing)

    he never hit those highs again, but he was, as you say, pretty interesting for a blues rock guy

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