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H arvey Mandel ranks as one of the pioneers of not only blues-rock but of virtually every sonic trick rock guitarists have come to take for granted. Along with Mike Bloomfield, he pushed the blues envelope into wide-open spaces and upped the ante considerably when he moved to San Francisco at the height of the Fillmore era. "Without sounding immodest," he states, "I would say we were trendsetters in that area of guitar playing, because it didn't exist before then. There were no Hendrixes or Claptons when I started playing. There wasn't that much on record - you couldn't go down to your local record store and get the real stuff - so my original bible was the Ventures. Then I saw real blues guys like Buddy Guy playing in person." In addition to his work with Charlie Musselwhite, John Mayall, Canned Heat and the Rolling Stones, Mandel's solo LP's are classics - in particular, his debut, Cristo Redentor.
Harvey Mandel has a knack for extending the accepted blues vocabulary, thus transcending the genre. "It wasn't so much what I was listening to," he points out, "it was more the physical part of the guitar. I wanted to be able to express it more like a violin or a harmonica; for some reason I always went for that sustain, long before I even knew what it was. Then feedback came as a result of that." (This was incidentally, long before the advent of Marshall amps. "No, it was mostly on little Fender amps at first, using different tricks, and I eventually used an all-tube, low quality Bogan pa amplifier. Had the greatest natural sustain.")
Just as his landmark Cristo Redentor was more than a 12-bar blues treatise (its use of congas inspired none other than Carlos Santana to add the instrument to his line-up), Harvey is much more than a straight blues guitarslinger. "The truth of the matter is, I always considered myself more of an all-around guitarist," he says, "although my roots come from the blues. But I'm as much a rock player as I am a blues player, as much a jazz player in my own little way. It's a melting pot of all those styles put together."
Besides appearing on Harvey's records, Freddie Roulette has worked with Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker, Sly Stone and Earl Hooker, but has remained and underground legend for the most part. As left-field as his choice of instrument and musical style are - a black bluesman playing an 8-string Hawaiian lap steel guitar - it is his facility and ideas that make him totally unique. In uncharacteristic understatement, Henry Kaiser calls him "a true original." he is presently working on a solo album, a long-overdue follow-up to 1972's "Sweet Funky Steel," produced by Harvey Mandel.
The name probably newest to guitar aficionados is Steve Kimock of the Northern California band Zero (which at one time included one of the psychedelic guitar's forefathers, the late John Cipollina). "He's much more than a psychedelic guitarist, just like I am," according to Kaiser, "but there's a part of both of us where we're second-generation psychedelic guitarists. He's very tasteful, and this record only shows a few of his many facets."
H is 25 year plus career includes electric, lap, and acoustic guitars, encompassing styles of rock, jazz, blues, Hawaiian, finger-picking and bottleneck. Toss in a personal assortment of sounds and what you've got is a guitarist who's been called upon to cover almost every style of music.
Steve says of himself as, "...underplaying an unusual idea; it has a deliberatness to it. It's not about what I play, rather how I play. The technique used to humanize the approach is to tune the guitar in an unusual fashion, so the tuning kind of plays the song all by itself. The clarity that I hope people hear in my playing is not the brilliance of the technique, rather the clarity of thought."
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