Marquee, London, December 1982 – Nick Kemp
IRISH rockers Mama’s Boys stunned a capacity crowd at London’s Marquee club as they stormed througha fifty minute set that left the majority open mouthed in admiration. Even my usually frequent sojourns to the bar were rendered impossible as my legs turned to jelly at the sheer excellence of this latest combo to hit these shores from the Emerald isle.
Like their predecessors – Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers and influences The Horslips – Mamas Boys possess that almost exclusively Irish Phenomenon, namely melody, sheer power, balls and instrumental finesse, but still maintaining downright commercialism. take ‘Belfast City Blues’, a touchy subject at the best of times, especially for those who really know the situation (I don’t pretend to). The song is commercial enough to storm the charts, but you can still feel the pain that comes from singing about the situation.
Mamas Boys are a hard rock band but their roots lie in Irish folk music and touch on the blues (the purest form of rock’n’roll) and it’s deep rooted affiliation with melody coupled with absolute power, which doesn’t, in this case, corrupt absolutely, that won over the Marquee audience. Guitar supremo set the brain reeling and the body unwittingly moving as he let rip with a number of hooks that are destined to be added to the guitar hero handbook.
‘Runaway Dreams’, ‘Straight Forward’, ‘In The Heat Of The Night’, you point to any number in the band’s setlist and you’ve pointed to a rock classic. The singforthcoming single ‘Needle In The Groove’, the wickedly brillian encore ‘Demon’ etc etc. I could go on and on but space as usual wont permit. just let it suffice to say that Mamas Boys will be one of the biggest things to hit the music business since the Stones and you can quote me on that.
Mamas Boys: ‘Too Little Of You For Me To Love’ (Spartan) Steve Joule 1983
Now these boys certainly brought a smile of enjoyment to my face at Reading this year, but I’m afraid this record has wiped it clean off my face. I’m not quite sure what I don’t like about it because, all in all, there are some really nice things going on, not least of all the guitar sound which is quite excellent and after a few listens the vocals aren’t that bad either, but, no, I just don’t really enjoy it. Sorry lads but keep trying.
Live Sherwood Rooms, Nottingham DAVE DICKSON 1983
MAMA’S BOYS are currently trekking around the country promoting their latest work, ‘Turn It Up’, in the time-honoured tradition. And, tonight, they gave floor-space and concert-time to another well -heeled – if somewhat decrepit these days – institution of the British Rock Scene… ‘The Jam’. At one time a ‘jam’ meant an onstage get -together by a number of rock’n’roll luminaries who would run through a couple of old standards (‘Johnny B. Goode’, ‘Blueberry Hill’, that sort of thing) for the mutual enjoyment of themselves and the audience. But things have changed a little since the ‘good-old-days’, becoming what we’ll arrive at in a moment…
Meanwhile, let’s get back to the McManus brothers. At present they are in the process of moulding themselves into an extremely tight unit that will, given time, mature into an excellent performing hand. They offer good time rock’n’roll, a ‘party down’ spirit that is infectiously appealing, though they’ve yet to pen any truly memorable material. The spirit is certainly there aplenty, even if it lacks a suitable ‘monster hit’ vehicle to unleash it.
But one of the factors in Mama’s Boys’ favour is that they have the time to develop their skills. And, judging by this performance, they already have adequate support in the clubs to bolster them on their path to stardom. It’s also worth bearing in mind that America now seems to be opening its arms to yet another ‘British Invasion’ – witness the mind-boggling US success of U2, with Big Country coming hot on their heels. British and ‘ethnic’ is definitely the thing to be at present, something that makes Pat McManus fiddle playing (on ‘Demon’) a sizeable ace in their pack! Diverting and a little off-the–wall, the fiddle adds another dimension to what might otherwise be just another rock’n’roll band. The Yanks’ll love it – Just wish he’d can the Jimmy Page bit!
And so, at last, to the ‘jam’ in which Phil Lynott and John Sykes, together with the inaudible Mark Stanway, usurped the Mama’s Boys’ platform and dragged the event down to a Lizzy-revisited session. John McManus lost the use of the microphone and Pat was ousted from the spotlight by the demonstrative Sykes. A ‘get- together’ it was not, a ‘coup’ it most certainly was.
Coming on during the main part of the set, Lynott and co. took control immediately and converted the performance into a Lizzy showcase with ‘Day In The Life Of A Blues Singer’, a title I didn’t recognise, ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘Baby Drives Me Crazy’, as an encore, on display. And the unfortunate thing as far as the McManus boys were concerned was that these guys were all pros at the top end of the success ladder – and it showed! A quantum leap in style was taken, with Lynott oozing charisma in abundance.
Ultimately, this did the Boys no favours at all. They are not yet in a position to be able to cope with this kind of competition … basically they allowed themselves to be walked over!
Turn It Up: Spartan Records 1983 NEIL JEFFRIES
WHAT BETTER way to follow up their triumphant Reading appearance than with this their second album? Last year’s debut, (‘Plug It In’) was a credible effort by any standards but a still more remarkable achievement coming as it did from three brothers only recently converted to rock from traditional Irish folk music. This album represents yet another quantum leap.
On that first album, they were an entertaining (if slightly derivative) sounding act that looked to ooze potential. ‘Turn It Up’ realises that potential with astonishing maturity.
Pat The Professor McManus (as well as writing all the songs) has developed into a first rate guitarist and definitely a man to watch. Check out his lead breaks in ‘Loose Living’, ‘Face To Face’ or the already stage-proven ‘Shake My Bones’ for the proof. His riffs too, sound fresher this time around. Even on the one possible ‘steal’, (listen carefully to ‘Gentleman Rogues’) Mama’s Boys wrap their own identity around it so tightly as to all but suffocate any ‘sounds familiar’ thoughts.
The other slightly weak link – brother John’s thinnish voice – is suitably strengthened by Barry Devlin’s strong, clear production so that it rings clear above Pat’s superbly full, fuzzed rhythm tones.
There’s plenty of punch from the rest of the engine room too courtesy of John’s bass (no complaints there!) and his partnership with youngest brother Tommy on drums. They excel themselves on each of the seven rockers … then just to underline the variety of talent they possess, perform equally well on the sentimental slowie ‘Too Little Of You To Love’, the ZZ Top-ish blues of ‘Lonely Soul’ (featuring a great harmonica over-lay) and final cut ‘Freedom Fighters’ where Pat rounds it all off with a beautiful fiddle solo.
All mightily impressive stuff. Mama’s Boys have really found their feet in the rock world now and I have no hesitation adding my name to the growing list of people tipping them for a VERY big future. Buy this album!
KERRANG! ISSUE No.36 Feb 24-Mar. 1983 Singles reviewed by Neil Jeffries
Mamas Boys: “Needle In The Groove” (Ultranoise)
Head and shoulders above the rest and one of the best records its been my pleasure to hear in a long while. A lazy sort of rhythm, (make that swagger) and a terrific, laid-back guitar solo. It’s a deadringer for something by ZZ Top right down to the treated vocal. The if-this-band-don’t-make-it-I’ll-eat-my-hat cliché is completely justified; stuff like this ought to be available on the National Health. Superb.
MAMAS BOYS/TIGERTAILZ – THE VENUE, EDINBURGH
A NIGHT of contrast, you may say, but aside from the obvious musical and visual differences. Mama’s Boys and Tigertailz have a fair bit in common.
Both are hardworking, they’re exciting live, they are hungry and they enjoy themselves. In short, neither is content to rest on their considerable laurels, and that makes for interesting viewing.
Faced with a predictably packed venue, Tigertailz set out to please with ‘Shoot To Kill’ and ‘Star Attraction’. The title track of the album ‘Young And Crazy’ followed, by which time the TT’s had discovered the minute stage space was inadequate for their usual antics. Somehow they found room to spin, gyrate. bump’n’grind their way through ‘Livin’ Without You’. ‘Turn Me On’ and a roasting rendition of ‘She’s Too Hot’; the highlight of the set.
Bidding a first fond farewell with ‘Shameless’ and ‘City Kidz’, the largest shareholders in the British hairspray and make’ are persuaded to return for Motley Crue’s ‘Livewire’, leaving the audience mostly impressed.
There’s no denying that Tigertailz are an exciting bend to watch but I have a nagging suspicion that their longer term prospects will depend more on the quality of their songs than their hectic good-time stage show.
Now Mama’s Boys could teach them a trick or two here. With no pretentions to be anything but themselves, Mama’s Boys also deal out a good time but proved conclusively tonight that you don’t need an OTT image and a frantic stage show to do it. They understand the basics and deal with the frills later. While Mama’s Boys have feel, Tigertailz grope. It’s all down to groove and rhythm really. Oh, and songs.
All the family favourites were there tonight, from classics like ‘Needle In The Groove’, ‘Lettin’ Go’ and ‘Straight Forward’, through to the pick of the latest album ‘Growing Up The Hard Way’. Of the new songs, ‘Bedroom Eyes’ had a groove deeper than a bottomless pit, ‘Last Thing At Night’ dripped with emotion squeezed from a Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore vibe and the failed single ‘Waiting For A Miracle’ again exposed the injustices of Radio One’s
airplay decisions. Needless to say, the bulbous audience loved it and responded accordingly.
A couple of months ago, when Mama’s Boys played Edinburgh Venue on their comeback tour, new vocalist Keith Murrell looked just a touch out of place. Since then it’s been up to him to develop his position amongst the McManus trio to become a focus for their individual talents. He certainly showed tonight that he knows when to lead and when to sit back, and is obviously playing a key role in elevating the band to a new peak of greatness.
He’s also got a bloody good voice, which always helps.
Young bands like Tigertailz can’t be expected to become supergroups immediately, they need time to mature. In the meantime, why not look for experience, quality and attitude in bands who’ve been around? After all this time, Mama’s Boys still have everything it takes to be huge. How about it?
A superb show that night. Both bands on fire – TT’z with Steevi Jaimz, great stuff.