It's always a bit baffling as well as saddening when a legendary name in music falls on tough times and needs to go to the public to ask for some help. Such was the way for Harvey Mandel this time last year when he needed to appeal for funds to pay for his medical bills following a cancer diagnosis.
It sure illustrates, apart from how unfair the US medical system seems to us in the UK, but also how doubly unjust it is this pioneer of the guitar hasn't been rewarded sufficiently in his career to be able to deal with an unexpected health issue.
As it says on his website "A professional at twenty, he played with Charlie Musselwhite, Canned Heat, The Rolling Stones, and John Mayall before starting a solo career. Mandel is one of the first rock guitarists to use two-handed fretboard tapping.."
Maybe this latest box set of his first 5 albums will go some way to recovering the bank balance along with the well deserved retrospective on his work. His guitar playing certainly set new standards in an era when blues was being rewritten by many new musicians in the mid 60's with Mandel's style pioneering sustained notes and controlled feedback to the form.
As these early solo albums prove Mandel wasn't just content with repeating blues riffs but exploring his ideas beyond the guitar and into orchestration which is perfectly illustrated by the track "Cristo Redentor" from his first album of the same name in 1968.
It was a daring and for some controversial exploration for a blues man to take as the sublime string arrangement and vocal choir took the sound into completely different expression with the haunting and beguiling theme having far more in common with an Ennio Morricone film soundtrack than any axe wielding psychedelic blues. If you wanted that then you could turn to his work with Canned Heat which he was doing in the same late 60's period.
The follow up solo albums in the 'Snake Box' to 'Cristo Redentor' are 'Righteous', 'Games Guitars Play', 'Baby Batter' and 'The Snake' and what's more his YouTube Channel is good enought to provide lots of tracks from the boxset. Go and have a root around the selection and order from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
The 'Snake Box' is a fitting tribute to the man which will no doubt be fully recognised when he tours Europe in March having successfully recovered from last years diagnosis. See HarvelMandel.com for further details.