In 1978, I was sixteen years old, a sophomore in high school, really getting into rock and roll, like Peter Frampton, Santana, Journey, and even heavier stuff like Deep Purple (and no, not just because of “Smoke on the Water”). One day at school, a buddy of mine, Jim Morello were talking about what bands we were into at the time, and he mentioned that he totally dug “Mahogany Rush,” and he handed me a cassette of “Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush – Live” and told me to give it a listen.
I took it home, popped it into my portable stereo, and was immediately HOOKED! Here was a dude that didn’t sing in a tenor like most everyone at the time (you can blame Steve Perry, Lou Gramm, and Brad Delp for that), and could play guitar like no one’s business! He voice immediately reminded me of Jimi Hendrix. But his guitar playing was completely different, and nothing like I’d heard at the time. I completely wore out that tape, and when that wore out, I bought the vinyl, and played that – a lot. It even went to college with me.
Now fast-forward 36 years to the present day, and for some reason that conversation with Jim all those years ago popped into my head. Curious to see if I could listen to that beloved album, I went on Spotify, and sure enough, it was there. I listened to it three times!
Frank Marino was compared to Jimi Hendrix in his heyday. But his style and tone were completely different. He certainly was a huge fan of Jimi’s and he covered his songs, but Frank Marino had a sound all his own.
I found a recording of a concert he did in 1979. Before you watch/listen from the beginning, I’d ask you to skip to the 22:00 minute mark. Here he starts a jazz/rock song that exemplifies his phrasing. In that song, he doesn’t do anything technically sophisticated, but the ease of which he bounces between Phrygian, Lydian and Aeolian modes then adds in some minor Pentatonic is amazing to me. Talk about mastery over pitch axis! I doubt he’s even thinking about modes. His command of his SG is awesome!
Frank Marino is still around and playing. To me, he is one of the best rock guitarists of our time; yet like Ronnie Montrose, never received the accolades other guitarists received. In any case, if you have Spotify, look for Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush Live. It’s the only album I could find of his on Spotify, and really the only recording that’s decent.