Mama's Boys

Growing up the Hard Way

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Ireland's Mama's Boys were a band of brothers -- literally, the three McManus boys, John, Pat, and Tommy -- and in 1986 they were dealt a cruel hand by fate midway through a European tour, when Tommy suffered a relapse of leukemia, which he had been treated for successfully as a child. Luckily, the drummer recovered in due time, but then it was brother John's turn to experience health issues with his vocal chords, forcing the hire of singer Keith Murrell before Mama's Boys could start working on their next album. And finally, proving that bad things really do happen in threes, all of these hardships, triumphs, and emotions were not channeled into newly minted quartet's next album, 1987's embarrassingly lousy Growing Up the Hard Way. Heaven only knows how many songwriting doctors were commissioned to churn out such mediocre, cliché-ridden drivel, by the band's pop-oriented record company, Jive Records, before handing over the keys to the album's ill-chosen producer Phil Begley, whose biggest claim to fame at the time was overseeing the single "Pop Music" by one-hit wonder M. But the end results ultimately consisted of mindless synthesizer-dominated AOR (the song titles say it all: "Bedroom Eyes," "Hot Blood," "I've had Enough," etc.), so utterly interchangeable with that of hundreds of faceless ‘80s bands, and even further divorced from the Mama's Boys prior sonic imprint by Murrell's competent but obviously unfamiliar vocals. And the final insult was delivered via a soulless, technology-slathered cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" that, frankly, made the Red Hot Chili Peppers' version from a year later sound like a religious experience. No such luck for the Mama's Boys, whose already ailing career went into an irreversible flat-line after this release.

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