Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit - 2016
Chicago-based guitarist Harvey Mandel’s first appearance on record was in 1966, on Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band. Over the next few years he played live with a number of other blues legends, including Muddy Waters and Otis Rush, and appeared on recordings by Canned Heat and John Mayall, his long, searing guitar lines earning him the nickname “the Snake.” When the Heat appeared at Woodstock in 1969, Mandel was their lead guitarist. In 1974, when Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones, Mandel auditioned for his slot, and played in “Hot Stuff” and “Memory Motel,” from the Stones’ Black and Blue (1976).
As even that brief glimpse of his résumé shows, Mandel should be better known. His new album, Snake Pit, matches the standard he’s set with his many solo albums since 1968, and shows his formidable skills undiminished. Mandel recorded the album at Fantasy Studios, in Berkeley, with four young Chicago musicians, to whom he introduced his song ideas via demos he’d recorded on his Phones.
Mandel sounds confident and strong in the title track, with drummer Ryan Jewell and bassist Anton Hatwich laying down a firm foundation behind his tastefully flashy guitar. Ben Boye plays understated electric piano, then steps up for a nicely constructed solo. “Snake Pit” contains hints of blues, funk, and jazz that Mandel handles easily but with burning conviction, and even at a length of 5:27, “Snake Pit” never loses steam or stoops to cliché.
01. Snake Pit
02. Space Monkeys
04. Baby Batter
07. Before Six
08. Ode to B.B.
Harvey Mandel - Guitar
Brian J. Sulpizio - Rhythm Guitar
Ben Boye - Keyboard
Anton Hatwich - Bass
Ryan Jewell - Drums
Jose Najera - Percussion