For a few years in the 80s, it seemed that Mama’s Boys had it made. The McManus brothers - Pat on guitar, John on bass and vocals, and Tommy on drums - were as tight as a power trio could be, having honed their hard rock sound as kids in rural County Fermanagh. And as a powerful live act, they held their own on the big stages, opening for Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden.
What these boys never had was that one great album or hit single that could lift them into rock’s premier league. But as this 5-CD box set illustrates, there was genuine potential in the music they made early on.
From 1980, their independently-released debut Official Album, aka Official Bootleg, has the unmistakable flavour of the NWOBHM, plus shades of Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher. On 1982’s Plug It In, their first album for Jive Records, they forged a more distinctive style with the punchy Straight Forward and the slinky Needle In The Groove. And while 1984’s logically-titled Turn It Up was more polished, standout track Gentleman Rogues demonstrated why a Sounds reviewer hailed Pat McManus as a new guitar hero to give Michael Schenker sleepless nights.
Also included in this package, along with a disc of rarities, is 1992’s Relativity, the last album the brothers made together before Tommy McManus died from leukaemia, aged just 28. It was a different, more grown-up Mama’s Boys record, and for Tommy, a fitting epitaph.