Artist: Harvey Mandel
Album: Snake Attack
Label: Rockbeat Records
Release Date: 02/10/2017
To some degree, you know what you’re in for with Harvey “The Snake” Mandel—the man knows his way around a fretboard, can wail with the best of ‘em, and makes sure to stay listenable and fun while doing it. You can be pretty sure it’ll be loud, energized and plenty rooted in the blues.
Then again, you don’t always know how he’s going to do it. The sounds are just as important as the notes. Between deft string work and juicy electric tones, Mandel squeezes sounds from the instrument like playing with sonic taffy. The all-instrumental Snake Attack also tosses in a few interesting Eastern elements in the process, opening with a snake-charming tune sinuous enough to suit his nickname, and often building rhythmic loops that sample tabla or hand percussion in addition to drums.
Things are slightly different from the usual this time around; this one is a solo hodgepodge thrown together at home with loops and overdubs. In spots it means some unfortunate ’80s-sounding synth tones, as in “Criminal Intent” or the straight-out-of-1987 “Luscious Life.” At other times he soars over driving club beats to evoke the techno-skronk of Jeff Beck’s early-00s electronica.
We might miss the chemistry of a live band, but Mandel’s fiery hooks and tasteful chops are more than enough to carry the day. He clearly enjoys the freedom to stretch out and follow his ideas without anyone else needing to keep up. For a tight and wild half-hour ride, you don’t really need to ask for more.