This month Ronan McCullagh checks out some psychedelic blues with an unsung hero who left the business but has returned to play again.
Ronan McCullagh describes the playing style of the guitarist from Canadian band Mahogany Rush, the inexcusably undersung Frank Marino.
At the age of 13 Frank Marino wound up in a mental hospital after getting involved with psychedelic drugs. Here he found a cheap Stella acoustic to keep his mind off the terrifying thoughts in his head. After a year or so he was incredibly proficient on the instrument, developing a deep relationship with it and often expressing how he felt that the guitar had became his lifeboat. Once discharged from hospital Frank began playing around Montreal with a trio called Mahogany Rush, which he named after one of his LSD experiences. Toting a 1961 Les Paul SG, bought by his parents for $75, and with bassist Paul Harwood and drummer Jimmy Ayoub, the group would take their amps and a generator, find a place and play. Large crowds would congregate, and soon a small American label made their way to see the band and offered them a chance to record. The album, Maxoom, dedicated to the late Jimi Hendrix was released in 1972; it wasn’t until the band’s third record Strange Universe in 1975, however, that they managed to break. They landed an opening slot for Queen on the Sheer Heart Attack tour and by the time they released Mahogany Rush IV, they were signed with Columbia. With the major label behind them Mahogany Rush was pulling big numbers to their concerts but Marino never trusted the music business and in 1993 he decided enough was enough and he moved home, raised a family and built computers for a living. Happy in life and not touching the guitar for four years he accidently stumbled across the Frank Marino fan page after doing some family ancestry research online. He got involved in chatrooms and became friends with many on the site. When asked, ‘Do you think you’ll play again?’ he responded, ‘Okay’ and in 1997 attended the Ottawa Bluesfest. Today Marino is still active recording and touring his own music. Frank Marino’s style is varied to stay the least. He has his Hendrix-like vocab, which he does beautifully in a blues, rock, psychedelic way but there are so many other aspects to his playing. The album Strange Universe is a great place to get an idea of this versatility. Throughout this record you will notice his amazing compositional skills but threaded through this is outstanding guitar work. With a blues-rock base, you get those expressive bends and repetitive sequences within a Pentatonic framework, as well as a much jazzier side of Marino as he delivers blazing be-bop lines as authentically as many an archtop jazz virtuoso.
We didn’t Want to get rich. We didn’t Want to be famous. We Wanted to make music and jam With our friends Frank Marino
Frank Marino, the stunningly good Canadian blues-rocker