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Harvey Mandel

Self-taught guitarist Harvey Mandel began his career in the black blues clubs of Chicago, learning as much as he could from the masters of classic urban blues. Mandel was born in Detroit on March 11, 1945 and raised in Chicago. He began playing guitar while in his early teens and found his inspiration in the sound of the Ventures. Whole new vistas in guitar appreciation opened up for him once he had the chance to hear musicians like Buddy Guy in the small blues clubs of Chicago's West and South sides. Mandel learned from and performed with such greats as Guy, Albert King, Muddy Waters, and Otis Rush. Mandel got his nickname, "The Snake," from master blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite, who admired the way Mandel's left hand would effortlessly snake up and down the guitar neck. He later took on the moniker "The King of Sustain," for the long, ringing tones he's able to coax from his instrument.

Mandel's solo career began in the late 1960s, after his San Francisco-based manager got him signed to a deal with Phillips, a label distributed by Mercury Records. Mandel's first album, Cristo Redentor (1968), was well-received on the then-growing underground radio scene in California, and he followed it with two more albums for Phillips, Righteous in 1969 and Games Guitars Play in 1970. In 1971, he recorded Baby Batter for the Janus Records label, and that company later released an album called The Best of Harvey Mandel in 1975.

In 1972, Mandel produced a group of Chicago-area musicians on Get Off in Chicago, a jam session album recorded in three days. After a brief tour with John Mayall in Europe in 1972, he recorded The Snake in 1972, Shangrenade in 1973 (featuring a guest appearance from Bobby Lyle on clavinet), and Feel the Sound of Harvey Mandel in 1974, all for the Janus label. For much of the rest of the '70s and '80s, Mandel has performed club engagements, despite his lack of a current record. In the '80s in Florida, where he had family, he spent time in a house band at Woody's, a club owned by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Mandel's session work is a short who's-who of blues and roots rock greats, and it includes albums with the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Canned Heat (a group he was part of in the '60s and again in the '90s), Musselwhite, Barry Goldberg, Jimmy Witherspoon, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Dewey Terry, Freddy Roulette, Bobby Keys, and eventually, even his heroes the Ventures. For a great sense of the genius of Mandel's playing, pick up Charlie Musselwhite's debut for the Vanguard label, Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's Southside Blues Band.

Never a singer, but always an inventive and well-respected guitar player, Mandel's commercial appeal has been limited by his natural eclecticism and curiosity about different styles. Like blues and jazz pianist Mose Allison, Mandel plays a mix of styles on his instrument, always skirting the line between blues and rock. As a result, his fan base, (though dedicated) is somewhat fractured, because they're either fans of his rock playing or his more bluesy material.

In the early '90s, Mandel moved back to the San Francisco Bay area, where he recorded a series of excellent albums for the Chicago-based Western Front Entertainment label. Twist City, a 1993 release, got good reviews. In the summer of 1995, he released Snakes & Stripes for the Clarity Recordings label and received his own volume in the Chronicles series, which compiled remastered editions of his first three albums. A year later he was a co-headliner with Henry Kaiser, Steve Kimock, and Freddie Roulette on The Psychedelic Guitar Circus. His hard-driving blues set, Planetary Warrior, appeared in 1997 from his own Electric Snake Productions label and was distributed via Lightyear Entertainment. Working through his own company, Mandel released 1998's re-release on CD of Shangrenade, and Emerald Triangle.

He began the 21st century with Lick This, a self-described "techno collaboration" with his son Eric Mandel as lead vocalist. They followed it with the hip-hop-oriented West Coast Killaz in 2003. That same year, the guitarist issued NightFire featuring Harvey Mandel/Freddie Roulette. Though the guitarist toured and played club and some session dates, it would be another three years before the studio outing Harvey Mandel & the Snake Crew was released. He spent two years recording and touring with the "Chicago Blues Reunion" in 2008. A year later, he issued Harvey Mandel & the Snake Crew: Live. That same year, Mandel and Larry Taylor reunited with Fito de la Parra and the rest of the then-current Canned Heat lineup to perform certain shows on the band's tour. The three men were all part of the group's 1969 Woodstock show. Mandel formally rejoined Canned Heat in 2010. Numerous catalog reissues -- some of rather suspicious origin -- and Canned Heat comps appeared over the next several years. In 2015, Cleopatra issued Snake Box, which collected Mandel's first five solo albums and added a sixth disc of rarities. In November 2016, the guitarist issued Snake Pit for Tompkins Square -- his first widely distributed album in 20 years. Co-produced by the guitarist with label boss Josh Rosenthal, it was recorded over two days at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Mandel teamed with keyboardist Ben Boye, drummer Ryan Jewell, guitarist Brian Sulpizio, and bassist Anton Hatwich, none of whom had either met one another or rehearsed together before these sessions. ~ Richard Skelly
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Snake Pit

1. Snake Pit

2. Space Monkeys

3. NightinGail

4. Baby Batter

5. JackHammer

6. Buckaroo

7. Before Six

8. Ode To B.B.

x

Track List: Snake Box

Disc 1

1. Cristo Redentor

2. Before Six

3. The Lark

4. Snake

5. Long Wait

6. Wade In The Water

7. Lights Out

8. Bradley's Barn

9. You Can't Tell Me

10. Nashville 1 A.M.

11. Righteous

12. Jive Samba

13. Love Of Life

14. Poontang

15. Just A Hair More

16. Summer Sequence

17. Short's Stuff

18. Boo-Bee-Doo

19. Campus Blues

Disc 2

1. Leavin' Trunk

2. Honky Tonk

3. I Don't Need No Doctor

4. Dry Your Eyes

5. Ridin' High

6. Capurange

7. Señor Blues

8. Games People Play

9. Baby Batter

10. Midnight Sun

11. One Way Street

12. Morton Grove Mama

13. Freedom Ball

14. El Stinger

15. Hank The Ripper

Disc 3

1. The Diving Rod

2. Pegasus

3. Lynda Love

4. Peruvian Flake

5. The Snake

6. Uno Ino

7. Ode To The Owl

8. Levitation

9. Bite The Electric Eel

10. Jam

11. You've Got To Feel It

12. 3 O’Clock In The Morning

13. She's A Mojo Worker

x

Track List: Essential Guitar Masters

1. That's All Right

2. Let's Work Together

3. Bradley's Barn

4. Just A Hair More

5. Campus Blues

6. Long Wait

7. Before Six

8. Christo Redentor

9. Senor Blues

10. Which Witch Is Which

11. Nashville 1 AM

12. Ridin' High

13. Love Of Life

14. My Time Ain't Long

15. Summer Sequence

16. Snake

17. Dry Your Eyes

18. The Lark

19. Honky Tonk

20. You Can't Tell Me

21. Lights Out

22. Capurange

23. Righteous

24. Jive Samba

25. A Wade In The Water

26. My Soul's On Fire

27. I Don't Need No Doctor

28. Short's Stuff

29. Spirit Of Trane

30. Games People Play

31. What Comes Around Goes Around

32. Boo-Bee-Doo

33. Poontang

34. Leavin' Trunk

35. A Little Soul Food

x

Track List: Planetary Warrior

1. Space Monkeys

2. What Comes Around Goes Around

3. I Don't Mind Being Wrong

4. 90 In The '53

5. Wall Banger

6. Rumble

7. The Only One

8. Carne Del Serpiente

9. Whinin' Whiskey

10. Emerald Triangle

11. Planetary Warrior

12. Candy Rapper

x

Track List: Shangrenade

1. What The Funk

2. Fish Walk

3. Sugarloaf

4. Midnight Sun II

5. Million Dollar Feeling

6. Green Apple Quickstep

7. Frenzy

8. Shangrenade

x

Track List: The Snake

1. The Divining Rod

2. Pegasus

3. Lynda Love

4. Peruvian Flake

5. The Snake

6. Uno Ino

7. Ode To The Owl

8. Levitation

9. Bite The Electric Eel

x

Track List: Baby Batter

1. Baby Batter

2. Midnight Sun

3. One Way Street

4. Morton Groove Mama

5. Freedom Ball

6. El Stinger

7. Hank The Ripper

x

Track List: Cristo Redentor

1. Wade In The Water

2. Lights Out

3. Bradley's Barn

4. You Can't Tell Me

5. Nashville 1 A.M.

6. Cristo Redentor

7. Before Six

8. The Lark

9. Snake

10. Long Wait

Comments

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Saw Mr. Mandel in SF in mid-90's at Buddy Loves. Came in for dinner and a drink after a long day and Harvey came in stage and blew us away. Saw him with Canned Heat at Woodstock. Have to admit, don't remember that performance so well. Harvey can do it all.
Report as inappropriate
Suprised.... H a r v e y s been around long time had album in early 70's
Report as inappropriate
Got his start in Chicago in the sixties was in Pacific Gas &Electric in Cal. Stuck with Sugarcane Harris for some great work on others albums even played on the Stones LPs also was at Clapton's Chi. Guitar festival can play anything

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