Harvey Mandel “Cristo Redentor”

Cristo Redentor

This gently psychedelic album is another of my vinyl bargain bin discoveries from the early ‘70s, which I picked up only because I knew Harvey Mandel had played with my favourites Canned Heat and John Mayall. Best known as a sideman – he later auditioned for the Rolling Stones on Mick Taylor’s departure – this was Harvey’s first solo work, dating from 1968, and an impossibly young-looking Mandel is pictured on the back artwork, a diminutive figure dwarfed by his big Gibson 355. The grooves within demonstrate not only his virtuosity on guitar, but also why his tenure with Heat and Mayall was so brief and why the Stones declined to hire him. Mayall described his technique as “Harvey’s wall of sound”, which aptly encompasses his early mastery of controlled feedback through his customised Bogan amplifier, and his later featuring of two-handed tapping, well before EVH got hold of that particular trick.

This album is completely instrumental, a rarity in pop-psych terms; the only voice to be heard is that of a wordless soprano singer on the title track. However, the stylistic diversity of the tunes and the variety of the backing tracks means that it is by no means repetitive. It was mostly recorded in LA and Nashville, using the top rhythm section sessioneers of both camps: Art Stavro and Eddie Hoh from the Wrecking Crew, stalwarts of the early Monkees sessions, and Bob Moore and Kenny Buttrey, soon to anchor Dylan’s Nashville Skykine. The LA tracks also feature tight string and brass arrangements, while the Nashville ones benefit from Pete Drake’s sympathetic pedal steel accompaniment.

The album as a whole is the best late-night-listening record I know of, beautifully laid-back funky arrangements fronted by a bewildering array of restrained guitar tricks from Mandel, dazzling but never flashy or tasteless. The titles give the idea: “Lights Out”, “Nashville 1AM”, “Before Six”. “Cristo Redentor” is Portuguese for Christ The Redeemer, and this title track is the exception to the rule of funk, being a solemn, operatic piece.

“Before Six” features some of Harvey’s most mind-boggling sustain work, the sound looping wildly between the stereo speakers, plus a mouth-watering cameo on Hammond by longtime LA collaborator Barry Goldberg and tasty brass stabs throughout. “You Can’t Tell Me” is funkier than your average Nashville session, with Harvey wringing out the best Memphis scale licks I’ve ever heard, intertwining with Pete Drake’s slippery steel chords.

The CD reissue, on the estimable Raven label from Australia, dates from 2003 and includes bonus tracks from Harvey’s Canned Heat days and from his own short-lived instrumental band, Pure Food & Drug Act. None of these quite live up to the quality of the solo album tracks, though Heat’s “Let’s Work Together” – the nearest Harvey ever got to being a pop star – has a certain boozy charm.

On this CD release the two sides of the original vinyl have been reversed, probably to make the best-known track, “Wade In The Water”, the leadoff track. The original running order works better, so if you get hold of this CD, play tracks 6-10 followed by tracks 1-5 for the most satisfying programme.

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“You Can’t Tell Me”

:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Raven | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Phillips | search ]

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  • so great you did harvey, and the only reason i found out is from my “pete drake” alert. [a little weird, i know, but it helped me find the forever video so i could repost it everywhere: it’s currently on my YouTube {nichopoulooza} and Dailymotion and FB, in case it ever goes missing again–you can find it. plus, did you see the cat somewhere online who just posted the fucking incredible pete drake “blue velvet?” i forget who now, but i stuck that on my fake last.fm band “objectum-sexualis!” with the[!} in case someone wants to hear it.

    anyway, thanks, nobody can hold onto feedback better than ham.


  • mark

    Again: I can offer only praise for your thoughtful review. It succeeded in provoking me to purchase this album. I have known about Mandel from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (or at least a version of this band that remains in continual flux…) and also from Canned Heat; however, I never realized that he did such strong solo work. The entire album excels! Wade in the Water is one of the most carefully crafted on the album and is remarkable for its sound texture and Mandel’s guitar work. Was he an exceptional band leader or was this a fluke? In other words, should I be collecting his other solo efforts (Baby Batter, etc.)?
    Yeah! the feedback is remarkably sweet and well-controlled!

  • Len Liechti

    Mark – thanks for your thanks. I have Harvey’s second and third solo albums, Righteous and Games Guitars Play, as a twofer on BGO (2005). Righteous has more straight blues and jazz than Cristo Redentor, while Games has a lot of soul-influenced stuff and features a lead vocalist (not HM). IMHO, neither of these gets close to Cristo for wow-factor. The later Shangrenade (1973) featured Harvey on two-handed tapping. I haven’t heard this, nor his other solos The Snake, Baby Batter and Feel The Sound Of, so cannot comment on these. For much more on HM’s history and discography, visit http://www.harveymandel.com.

  • bob burroughs

    Great to see this given a fine, lengthy review Len. Bought it when it came out and have re-purchased several times over the years. Worth the entry fee for ‘Wade in the Water’ and ‘BeforeSix’.
    Charlie Musselwhite’s ‘Stand Back’ from around the same time features ‘Christo Redentor’ and I seem to remember Harvey and some of the same musicians.

  • fflange

    Like a VERY stoned J.J Cale this groove just bubbles along sooooo very nicely, thank you!

    Great review as always, although I can hardly read the text it because it looks like teeny tiny bugs that keep moving when I try and focus on them.

    Oh dear!

  • Just listening to various versions of the title track on Spotify – this album not being available. Like you, I picked it up in a bargain bin on the back of his Canned Heat association and, yes, it is a sensational late night delight. Going to stop the Spotify now and get my vinyl out. Great stuff.

  • Will

    Hi all. I just wanted to say that “Lights Out” is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.




  • Len Liechti

    Wow! There’s nothing to beat getting an appreciative comment on your review from someone who actually helped create the record. Thank you yourself, Art, for all the wonderful music you and the other West Coast sessioneers gifted to us back in those halcyon days.

  • You guys might want to check out my new group Short Ribs. We are just finsihing up the CD but the tunes are available at the link below for listening..


  • Michael Cuevas

    The first thing I heard HM do was the LP “Baby Batter” back in the early 70’s. After just two or three spins, I was hooked. I went to “Games Guitars Play,” “Cristo Redentor,” “Righteous,” “The Snake” and on and on. When you pause, thinking “Cristo” was released amidst the sound and fury of tha late 60’s…audacious! I love–LOVE–“Wade In The Water,” and “Capurange,”if I had to choose favorites. I’ve also caught him fronting a blues rock band in San Francisco just a few years ago–it was beyond my best expectations–he smoked it…including a live “Cristo Redentor.” Thank you for the review and a huge high five to Harvey…very gracious he was in signing my copy of “Games Guitars Play.”

  • Hi guys, just a note, you brought up a few names of tunes we did that I had forgotten all about, Before six, Wade in the Water, Christo, Lights out..Back then I was concentrating on R&B and Blues. Then I met my crazy friend Harvey..What a trip trying to play his stuff..But I can say it was fun and that first album had some very interesting stuff on it.. Harvey spend hours and hours with the tech trying to achieve the sustain that you hear.. And of course it is a simple thing to achieve these days..The Museum in Golden gate park used Christo for it’s background music in the Planetarium.. Very kool, sitting back looking at the universe listen to that tune..Art

  • fantastic record , fantastic review.

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