Canada's Other Rush
by Mike McGuirk | April 20, 2011
Fans of the band don't necessarily have bad taste, but these poor guys have long been saddled with the questionable distinction of being the worst band ever in several areas. Ask any record geek. Worst name ever? Check. Worst album titles ever? Check. (Child of the Novelty, Tales of the Unexpected ... what do these mean? They sound like they're supposed to mean something. Something, uh, meaningful.) Worst cover art? Maybe not the worst ever (that's probably Queen's A Kind of Magic), but Tales of the Unexpected's image — an undead hippie sitting cross-legged in some kind of pool of light from a UFO with a guitar in his hands — is on the short list. As for the music, well, check out our playlist at the end of the post.
Canadian guitarist Frank Marino formed Mahogany Rush in 1971. A power trio deeply influenced by Jimi Hendrix, the group released albums throughout the '70s, with their leader's fluid guitar taking center stage. Along with that guitar style, Marino's freak-flag vocals, penchant for slowed-down spoken overdubs and mystical lyrics (mostly about space, olden times, spiritual/magical women, etc.) were all seemingly lifted directly from Hendrix. This is especially true in M.R.'s trinity of "babe" songs — "Moonlight Lady," "Dancing Lady" and "Funky Woman," all featuring love made under the stars, glittering star-shine eyes and the inexorable pull of a siren, presumably from the stars. These were all poignant, poetic tropes in Hendrix's hands; the difference is tough to nail down. For whatever reason, when he made hippie poetry, it sounded like he was from the future, and when Marino says almost the same thing, it sounds like he's from ... Canada. Anyway, Mahogany Rush's sonic, musical and lyrical resemblance to Hendrix is so uncanny that a rumor that Hendrix's ghost inhabits Marino's body has circulated since the '70s. Marino himself denies this.
In the '80s, the band became known as Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush; they released Full Circle in 1986 and From the Hip in 1991. Those albums still betray a strong Hendrix influence, though they are less startlingly similar — Marino sounds like someone who sounds like Hendrix rather than someone who himself sounds exactly like Hendrix. In 2000, they released Eye of the Storm.
The thing is, Marino isn't ripping Hendrix off — it's obvious that he simply can't help it. Clearly, when he writes a song or plays a solo, it just doesn't feel right if it doesn't remind him of something off Axis: Bold as Love. Hell, he probably is possessed by Jimi. To be clear, he really is a truly badass guitar player, which you can see for yourself on the just-reissued Mahogany Rush IV and World Anthem. If only for their dubious fame, everybody should know about these guys. Below you will find a playlist of Mahogany Rush songs. Please enjoy this awful music.