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Mamas Boys - 1987 Growing Up The Hard Way

ARTIST: Mamas Boys
ALBUM: Growing Up The Hard Way
SERIAL: 1059-2-J
YEAR: 1987


LINEUP: Keith Murrell - vocals * Pat 'The Professor' McManus - guitars * John McManus - bass, vocals * Tommy McManus - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Waiting For A Miracle * 02 Bedroom Eyes * 03 In Over My Head * 04 Higher Ground * 05 Hot Blood * 06 Running Away * 07 I've Had Enough * 08 Blacklisted * 09 Last Thing At Night

Depending where you sit, Mama's Boys fifth album 'Growing Up The Hard Way' will either appeal to you or it won't. The Irish brothers McManus, had formed the band as early as 1978 while they were still relatively young - hence the name. Though the McManus boys were bought up on a traditional diet of Irish/Celtic music, once they had listened to a few Thin Lizzy albums, their musical path was locked away in stone, pursuing a hard rock direction with passion. Tours with Horslips and Hawkwind, and a regular parade around their beloved Ireland saw the band's profile getting bigger. The trio then released two self-financed albums before being signed by Jive Records, who repackaged them onto their third album - simply called 'Mama's Boys' for a 1984 release. USA was soon beckoning, their single 'Mama We're All Crazee Now' competed with Quiet Riot on the charts during that year, and tours to North America, across Europe and Japan followed. By 1986, singer/bassist John McManus developed throat problems, the band initially looked at Michael Wilson and Rick Chase (Graffiti) as a frontman for the band, but eventually settled on former Airrace golden throat Keith Murrell for the job. As a result, the band had completely changed their sound, opting for a classy style of AOR. Did it work? History will say 'no it didn't', but readers of this site would disagree that it was a complete waste of time and effort.

The Songs
Mama's Boys - from an AOR perspective, impress right from the outset with the superb 'Waiting For A Miracle', a classy slice of music with all the right ingredients. 'Bedroom Eyes' less so, but the Strangeways flavour of 'In Over My Head' soon corrects matters. A cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground' is an inspired choice, the melodic rock rendition tipping the original upside down and then some! 'Hot Blood' has a similar feel to the opener 'Waiting For A Miracle', loads of keyboards and melody. The ballad on the album 'Running Away' is glorious stuff, a track I've admired for years, one of the best AOR ballads around. Moving back into the rock mainstream with a funky edge is 'I've Had Enough', with a load of punctuating bass and drum parts and a great lead solo from Pat. The foot-stomping rock continues with 'Blacklisted', but the surprise for many will be the essential listening of 'Last Thing At Night', a mainly guitar solo from Pat McManus in the mould of Gary Moore's 'The Loner'.. great track!

In Summary
On the back of this album, the band went out in support of Blue Oyster Cult and headlined in France, but the change in style from hard rock to out-and-out AOR did not work out well for them, Jive Records not renewing their contract, with Murrell leaving the band - to eventually take up a role as part of Cliff Richard's backing band. Mama's Boys relocated to England and continued on into the 90's, with former vocal contender Michael Wilson in tow as the new singer, the band releasing two further albums. During 1993 drummer Tommy McManus fell seriously ill, and succumbed to a lifelong run-in with Leukemia in 1994, the brothers understandably giving Mama's Boys away.

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#1 | jefflynnefan on March 04 2008 23:35:03
Really nice review. I couldn't agree more with everything you said. I didn't know that Murrell was a member of Cliff Richard's backing band or that Tommy had passed away, that's sad. Thanks for the information. This is one of my favorite cd's to listen to while I'm travelling somewhere. This cd will always be in my collection.
#2 | gdazegod on March 05 2008 01:31:24
I saw Keith as part of Sir Cliff's backing band when they came to NZ in 1998. He'd been with him for a decade or so. Lucrative gig? I reckon. Shame about Tommy. Apparently he'd been diagnosed when he was a child.
#3 | Geir on March 05 2008 21:29:20
A good album, if perhaps a little on the slick side and somewhat unfocused in terms of musical direction. Keith Murrell's voice is always a pleasure to hear and the McManus brothers are a tight musical unit, but still it seemingly doesn't gel entirely.

By the way, the 'Waiting For a Miracle' maxi single featured the non-album track 'Lightning Strikes', featuring John McManus on lead vocals. This certainly harks back to the band's classic trio days, but with a 'Growing Up the Hard Way' production sound - somehow bizarre, but not too shabby, either!
#4 | Eric on March 08 2008 17:50:49
Always and ever the American- you know - Mamas Boys first US date was Lawton, Oklahoma opening for Ratt at Lawton's 'Great Plains Coliseum' (four walls and a stage in Tornado alley). A town of 16,000 at the most back then? WTF?
Well and good, but I don't think their management had a clue how and where to promote the band. Both coasts would have been a plus for the band (Horslips always had a medium NYC following I can attest for that).

Every label without a brain was lumping every hard rock band together and Mama's Boys got lost in the shuffle as well as caught up in the BS. A shame.
#5 | Jemo on March 16 2008 11:04:42
Gr8 little album, and i actually prefer the direction they took with this as opposed to their earlier stuff. Seen them play in Belfast a couple of times.
#6 | super80boy on February 10 2016 00:17:18
The lead offs for each respective side 'Waiting For A Miracle' and 'Hot Blood' are effective AOR melodic rockers. The former is just clean and polished, while the latter has dominant guitar riffing and oozes with Foreigner touch-tones. For the sound they were pushing, radio glossed AOR, it's a good album.

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