Forgotten series: Mahogany Rush – Strange Universe (1975)

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Guitarist Frank Marino flaunted his Jimi Hendrix fetish to extreme effects, going as far as saying the spirit of the great axeman entered his body shortly after his death in 1970, resulting in a transfer of talent and ideas.

Such a remark was later revealed to be strictly for publicity purposes, which popped my balloon as how cool it would have been if something of a paranormal nature truly did occur.

Not only does Frank’s amazing guitar playing sound uncannily like the wizardry wares of his mentor, but his sensually expressive vocals and esoteric essays also strongly emulate those of Master Hendrix in a most stunning manner.

Originally released in 1975 on the 20th Century label, and reissued in 1989 by Repertoire Records, Strange Universe marked Mahogany Rush’s third album, and according to these ears, is the best of the bundle. Teeming and streaming with dynamic shifts dripping with flash and class, not to mention plenty of lashing and crashing, the disc expertly assimilates an array of styles into one memorable memento.

Sparked by sweeping rhythms and zooming riffs, “Tales Of The Spanish Warrior” shimmers and soars with space age signals, “Dancing Lady” wiggles to a fierce and funky beat, and “Once Again” ripples and rolls with bubbly blues licks.

A hard and heavy code directs the course on “Dear Music,” where “Moonlight Lady” favors a softer touch, pronounced by graceful melody lines. Blowing wispy psychedelic smoke rings, the title track of the album closes the gig on a breathtaking note.

Powerful and trippy, Strange Universe is the finest record Jimi Hendrix never made. While there’s no argument the songs freely steal snippets of the king of the six-string’s work, Mahogany Rush’s enthusiasm, paired with their hot chops, allows forgiveness for being so blatantly imitative. Jimi would indeed be flattered a band so in tune with his vision carried on with love and respect.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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  • David R Cooke

    Frank never made any such claim and has spent the rest of his life refuting them – clearly to deaf ears. Strange Universe, IV and World Anthem are extremely progressive and superb sounding records. From a guitar playing point of view, Marino’s style and studious approach has surprisingly little in common with Hendrix.

    • Tagbo Munonyedi

      Ditto that. Frank has done scores of interviews refuting that stupid story.
      I must admit, for a white guy, he does have a wonderfully Hendrixy voice but Hendrix was never a singer that one could “decide” to imitate. You either sound like him or you don’t and Frank did.
      I dig Hendrix and naturally, one can see whatever Hendrix influence existed in early Mahogany Rush. But it would be difficult for any 3 piece heavy rock band to have not picked up a little on elements of Hendrix and Cream. Where Mahogany Rush win hands down though, is in their melodic songs combined with heavy rock instrumentation.
      But they’re not just confined to the heavy stuff, they also demonstrate a lovely lightness of touch where necessary and a curious off the wall approach that elevates their songs, particularly on “Strange Universe” and its predecessor, “Child of the novelty.”
      This was one rocking outfit and Frank showed he was no slouch on drums either. His performance on “Dear Music” is the most daring on the album although Jim Ayoub {with help from Mountain’s Corky Laing on the title track} drums supportively and superbly throughout.

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