Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush
Marino and his Mahogany Rush lineup of rhythm guitarist Mick Layne, bass guitarist Peter Dowse and drummer Josh Trager recorded 'RealLIVE!' on September 8, 2001, at Club Soda in Montreal. The show was more than 3 1/2 hours long and the highlights are captured on two CDs stuffed to capacity with Marino's distinctively hypnotic blend of hard rock, psychedelic rock, jazz and blues.
"I love performing and I didn't want to return with a studio album because I really don't like being in the studio. I don't like the pristine sound of a studio album," Marino says. "My concerts usually run three or four hours long. It's all about the jam. If you came to see every show the songs would be similar in general, but you'll never hear the same solo twice."
The tracks on 'RealLIVE!' are: "Voodoo Chile," "Something's Comin' Our Way (Excerpt)," "He's Calling," "Red House," "Guitar Prelude To A Hero," "Stories Of A Hero," "Poppy," "She's Not There," "Crossroads," "She's Not There (Return)," "Poppy (Return)," "Let There Be...," "Strange Universe," "Ode To Creation," "Strange Universe," "Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame," "Ain't Dead Yet (Excerpt)," "Slippin' And Slidin'," "Back To The Hall," "Two 'N' Four (Just Joshin')," "Avalon," "Rumble 'N' Roll (For Pete's Sake)," "Jazzed A Moment," "Tales Of The Unexpected," "Return To Avalon," "Rattle Of Sabres," "Electric Reflections Of War," "Aftermath," "The World Anthem," "A Prayer For Peace," "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Try For Freedom."
Although many current guitarists like Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Steve Vai, Steve Lukather, etc., praise Marino as an important influence, he is not exactly a household name in mainstream music. However, Marino immediately earned recognition within music circles as one of the finest guitarists in the world upon the release of his 1971 debut album 'Maxoom.' He was only 16 years old. Since then, he has released a series of notable albums including 'Child Of The Novelty,' 'Strange Universe,' 'Tales Of The Unexpected,' 'What's Next,' 'Juggernaut,' 'Full Circle' and 'Eye Of The Storm.'
Marino is startlingly honest about himself and his career. He will be the first one to tell you that his career has not reached the peaks it could have because he has not played by music-business rules.
"I'm a hold-out hippie from the '60s. I'm an anti-business person and very anti-establishment," he says.
There have been periods of inactivity because he walked away whenever he was backed into a corner and pressured, especially to churn out albums as if they were assembly line fodder.
"When it wasn't fun I left. Sometimes I feel more like a novelist in that I have nothing to say until I am ready to say it," says Marino, who was out of music between 1993 and 1997 raising a family.
He had major-label deals with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Records and he performed at the legendary California Jam 2 concert in 1978 but he was only ever truly happy when he was given total creative freedom. He also rejected the trappings of fame and the way rock stars were supposed to act.
"I never did what rock stars would do. I didn't want to be treated like a king or travel in limos and be separated from the fans. I didn't treat fans like cattle. I didn't change band members whenever it was suggested for whatever reason. When people in the music industry say, 'Oh, he's hard to work with,' that just means that I wouldn't do what labels and managers told me to do if I didn't think it was right," Marino says. "I'm just an old reactionary from the late '60s who believes now what I believed then. My clothes are the same, my hair is the same and my songs are the same."
Artists often pay lip service to their fans, but unlike many of them Marino backs it up with action.
"The reason I started again with the concert recorded for 'RealLive!' goes back to when I accidentally found the www.mahoganyrush.com web site started by a fan named Willy Parsons. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the fans on there. I contacted Willy and soon I started joining in on chats and posts. Enough people finally convinced me to do what I thought was going to just be one gig," Marino says.
"I started participating in chats on the web site and answering e-mails. On my web site I post regularly on a wide variety of topics, like music, electronics and politics to things like outlines of my orthodox Christian religious beliefs and my fans and friends will have discussions about those issues and other things. My black address book is filled with names of people who were my fans and now they're my friends. To them I'm not 'Frank Marino,' I'm just Frank."
Marino is happy to be just a normal guy, but let's be honest here: His guitar prowess is anything but normal. He started playing drums as a child and still retains formidable jazz chops, but his guitar skills are the result of a teen-age drug incident that spun into a widespread, false, Jimi Hendrix-based myth that spiraled out of control.
"I had a bad acid trip when I just 13 years old in July 1968. I ended up in a mental asylum. While I was recuperating I found an acoustic guitar there. I spent 15 hours a day playing it and I became quite proficient. When I got out, I started playing more and picked up the electric guitar. The music popular at that time was psychedelic music created by people like Jimi Hendrix and that's what mine sounded like," says Marino, who created the name Mahogany Rush to describe an acid trip.
"I made my first album, 'Maxoom,' at 16 in 1971 when somebody stuck me in a studio and told me I could produce the album and do anything I wanted. Soon a story came out that I claimed to have been inhabited by the spirit of Jimi Hendrix when I was in a coma in the hospital and that I had suddenly become a great guitar player. This is simply not true. Besides, I was in the hospital two years before Hendrix died and supposedly 'claimed' that his spirit entered me. At the time I didn't have a publicist or manager to help me deny the story, which took on a life of its own."
Marino's career took off but the Hendrix myth dogged him every step of the way. Musically, Marino often worked in a power-trio format but he prefers having a rhythm guitarist around. In years past, that role had been filled by his brother Vince Marino. And like Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other guitar virtuosos before him, he sings out of necessity and not because he is enamored with his own voice.
"The reason I don't like the power-trio format is because I like to play blues and other songs around chord changes. I want to add color to those chord changes, but the music can only go in one direction with just bass guitar and drums behind you," says Marino. "A great rhythm guitarist is hard to find and keep in a band because the best ones also have to be able to play lead guitar, and if they can play lead guitar they often want to be out there fronting their own band. The main reason I sing is because if there was just a lead singer in the band, he'd be standing around a lot doing nothing while the long jams and solos were happening. I am more comfortable now singing and hearing my voice on tape."