Harvey Mandel

Baby Batter/The Snake [Western Front]

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Mandel shares more similarities with Jeff Beck than he's probably willing to admit: both are stunning virtuoso guitarists who can't write consistently first-rate material or sing. Mandel's fifth album, The Snake, like Beck's best '70s efforts, adds bluesy, jazzy shadings to a rock base, but is more firmly entrenched in blues-rock than, say, Blow by Blow. Harvey's playing (occasionally augmented by violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris) is always impressive, but the compositions (all but one instrumental) aren't gripping, and, like much of the genre, meander too much. It's not as good as Mandel's late-'60s recordings for Philips, but it's still one of the better early rock-based fusion recordings. This two-fer reissue adds his 1971 LP Baby Batter.

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