Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nektar - 1971 - Journey To The Centre Of The Eye

Journey To The Centre Of The Eye

01. Prelude (1:27)
02. Astronauts Nightmare (6:22)
03. Countenance (3:30)
04. The Nine Lifeless Daughters Of The Sun (2:41)
05. Warp Oversight (4:28)
06. The Dream Nebula (2:14)
07. The Dream Nebula Part II (2:25)
08. It's All In The Mind (3:22)
09. Burn Out My Eyes (7:48)
10. Void Of Vision (2:01)
11. Pupil Of The Eye (2:46)
12. Look Inside Yourself (0:53)
13. Death Of The Mind (2:52)

- Roye Albrighton / guitars, vocals
- Allan "Taff" Freeman / Mellotron, pianos, organ, vocals
- Derek "Mo" Moore / bass, Mellotron, vocals
- Ron Howden / drums, percussion

- Dieter Dierks / piano

Folks unfamiliar with the band Nektar think they are from Germany. What actually transpired was the quartet of Englishmen met in Germany in 1969 and formed the band. Ron Howden (drums, percussion), Derek "Mo" Moore (bass, vocals), Alan "Taff" Freeman (keyboards, vocals) and Roye Albrighton (guitar, lead vocals) would become huge in Germany and nearly broke big the in the U.S.
Eclectic Discs/Dream Nebula Recordings have reissued the four critically acclaimed albums that defined the band's career. "A Tab In The Ocean", "Journey To The Center Of The Eye", "Remember The Future" and "Recycled" are lovingly remastered with detailed liner notes for former fans and the newly indoctrinated to enjoy. Their well- known masterpiece "Remember The Future" was appropriately chosen for the SACD format as well as "Journey To The Center Of The Eye".

Their sound was a progressive-psychedelic mixture of rock that was far ahead of its time. For this listener this was a new wonderful listening experience. Prior to receiving these CDs, I had not heard any Nektar music besides a video of "Remember The Future" on a DVD compilation. I can understand now what all the talk has been about the band reforming and going on tour.

Roye Albrighton was the driving force of this band. His skilled guitar playing set the table for his fellow band mates. Each recording was outstanding and stands as a testament to their importance to the history of prog-rock music. What made this so interesting was how the label broke up each album into two parts respectively, the original recordings versus the newly remastered versions. You are now able to hear succinct differences between the two formats for the first time. Both versions are excellent and it was a treat to get the best of both worlds.

An astronaut lifts off for Saturn. En route, he is intercepted by aliens who had been studying Earth for some time and were perplexed by our war-mongering ways. They offer to show him life as they know it, a journey he undertakes both to a far-distant galaxy yet inwardly into his own psyche, a mind-expanding trip into the 'All Seeing Eye' which teaches him that all he seeks can be found here on Earth. But Earth is heading for a nuclear war ....
For a new band to undertake a complex concept for their debut recording showed at least they had no lack of ambition. It was recorded in a tiny German studio live-in-the-studio on 8-track equipment, filling any remaining tracks with overdubs as necessary, producing a technically excellent album far exceeding its humble origins. The sound is typical of its time - rough edged and unpolished, free from overly slick production or too many fancy electronic gizmos, revealing an energetic simplicity often lacking in modern music.

Instrumentally, what you get is essentially the core Nektar live sound, ie guitar, keyboard [mostly organ and Mellotron], bass and drums with just a few effects thrown in. This, the start of their journey through Prog-land, betrays its origins in the psychedelic world of the late 60s. The effect is probably best described as Psych Space Prog, which is entirely consistent with the subject matter: weird subtle effects; distorted or chiming electric guitars; prominent use of Hammond organ as a lead instrument; a 'complex' musical structure; and, dreamy floating sequences, sometimes with processed vocals depending on context.

Highlights are many, but this album is more about the flow through its entire 42 minutes than picking out individual pieces. Aside from a split half way through Dream Nebula [to enable it to fit on both sides of a vinyl LP] it is a continuous work, progressing through a sequence of movements as the story unfolds. However, my own favourite episodes are the instrumental Countenance which develops from a beautiful dreamy start into a mid-tempo spacey jam, and an achingly haunting Burn Out My Eyes simply oozing with anguish as the astronaut pleads for his sanity.

It has to be said there are times when neither lyrics nor music appear to illustrate the story in a literal sense, but the overall effect is mesmerising - close your eyes and you can imagine the journey into outer and inner space, you can feel the astronaut's sense of wonder at the magnificence of the universe, his pleasure and pain of knowing all things, the burden of seeing the future destruction of his homeland.

As with their other albums, Journey To The Centre Of The Eye has recently been re-mastered and re-issued by Dream Nebula with a useful pair of bonus tracks. The jewel in the crown though is an SACD layer containing a stunning 5.1 surround remix of the album, complete with the two halves of The Dream Nebula stitched together as a single track. Packaging is, as ever, excellent.

I can find little to fault. It is a product of its age, marrying the outgoing sound of psychedelia to new Progressive ideals of the incoming decade, yet in many ways ahead of its time, foreshadowing the emergence of both Space Rock [Hawkwind, Floyd, Eloy] and Prog [ELP, Genesis, Yes] as major musical forces. Debut or not, this is an astonishingly accomplished work which deserves to be considered a masterpiece alongside its more commercially successful peers.

Man - 1995 - Live in London 1975

Live in London 1975

01. C'Mon (15:26)
02. Left handed Methodist Missionary (1:08)
03. Bananas (14:20)
04. Love Your Life (19:56)
05. Life On The Road (9:57)

- Micky Jones / guitar, vocals
- Clive John / guitar, vocals
- Rhil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums
- Will Youatt / bass, vocals

My first musical encounter with this Welsh band was when I watched the German television programm Beatclub, I was impressed by their dynamic sound and frequent solo escapades. Soon I bought Man Live At The Rainbow 1972, recorded in the famous venue The Rainbow that hosted bands ranging from Queen and Rory Gallagher to Marillion. The running time on this CD is one hour and the tracks are between around ten and twenty minutes. The first song C'Mon is mainly rooted in the bluesrock tradition with some psychedelic hints, their sound is somewhere between Wishbone Ash and the early Nektar. The other tracks are loaded with the powerful and distinctive Hammond organ: the catchy Bananas, the wah-wah drenched Love Your Life (culminating in the Spunk-Rock jam) and the pure rock and roll in Life On The Road. To me this albums sounds as a pleasant dive into the wonderful Seventies, recommended to fellow Hammond organ aficionados!

Man - 1990 - Live at the Rainbow 1972

Live at the Rainbow 1972

01. 7171-551 (10:18)
02. Hard Way To Die (5:37)
03. Breaking Up Once Again (3:17)
04. Life On The Road (6:55)
05. Day And Night (4:15)
06. Someone Is Calling (2:43)
07. Many Are Called But Few Get Up (9:22)
08. Brazilian Cucumber Meets Deke's New Nose (7:14)

- Micky Jones / guitar, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitar, piano, vocals
- Ken Whaley / bass
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion
- Clive John / guitars, vocals
- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- Will Youatt / bass, vocals

Man were/are one of those bands that were made for playing Live. Never a band for playing their studio cuts note for note, they transformed them into extended jams making each performance of interest to their fans and therefore the reason why so many Live Man albums have been made available over the years. In fact there are more Live Man albums available out there than studio excepting compilations. Live in London with the exception of two tracks is taken from a 1975 BBC In Concert recording and captures the band at the Paris Theatre at their commercial peak. Not that Man really had a commercial peak as such, never hitting the mainstream in terms of commercial success but they did release two studio albums around this time (Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics and Slow Motion) aimed at making the band more accessible. In fact Rhinos was even produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. Fans of the bands more Psychedelic Rock need not worry though because although the band do take a more streamlined Rock approach on many of the tracks here there is still room for some extended jamming.
A ten minute version of 7171-551 kicks off the cd and it's as good a version as you'll here anywhere else. An excellent opener, which really powers along and some great soloing from Guitarists Deke Leonard and Micky Jones. Two tracks feature here from their latest studio album at the time, Slow Motion. As already mentioned this was a more commercial straight Rock sound for the band and the versions of Hard Way to Die and Day and Night are done justice here. In fact the former features some nice harmony vocals which the band manage to recreate Live to good effect.

Of interest to Man completionists are two tracks that never made it to studio albums, namely Breaking Up Once Again and Someone is Calling. Both capture their more commercial Rock sound and are good without being spectacular. For those preferring the more Psychedelic Man though we are treated to an excellent nine and a half minute version of Many are Called But Few Get Up.

The two tracks from a previous performance (and different line-up) fit in quite well here and don't seem out of place with the rest of the album. Life on the Road Rocks along with a mid paced shuffle and Brazilian Cucumber Meets Deke's New Nose comes across as more of a jam and is the weakest track on the cd. It features Man roadie Vyv Morris on vocals although he talks rather than sings.

So overall a good Man live album, not their best but certainly not the worst and worthy of Three and a Half stars.

As a footnote for those who are interested in the line-up of the band on the different tracks here. On the BBC In Concert we have Guitars/Vocals Deke Leonard and Micky Jones, on Bass Ken Whaley and on Drums Terry Williams. On Life On The Road and Brazilian Cucumber Meets Deke's New Nose the line-up was Jones and Williams with on Guitar Clive Johns, on Bass Will Youatt and on Keyboards Phil Ryan.

Man - 1977 - All's Well That End's Well

All's Well That End's Well

01. Let the Good Times Roll (3:00)
02. The Welsh Connection (7:59)
03. The Ride and the View (6:01)
04. Hard Way to Live (3:14)
05. Born With a Future (7:22)
06. Spunk Rock (8:31)
07. Romain (4:58)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, vocals
- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- John McKenzie / bass, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, vocals

The very definition of the contractual obligation album, All's Well That Ends Well is a live record recorded at London's Roundhouse less than a week before Man's split in 1976 and released in place of the album that was supposed to come from the fractious and ultimately unproductive studio sessions that had led to the band's dissolution. Nearly half the songs come from the recent Welsh Connection album, the others being mainstays of the live act like a rubbery, almost disco-tinged version of the standard "Spunk Rock." The one new song, the opening "Let the Good Times Roll," is actually quite good, a bluesy pub rocker featuring some swell organ work by Phil Ryan and a typically excellent performance by drummer Terry Williams, but the rest of the album, particularly the three tracks from the rather subpar Welsh Connection, is rather dispirited and dull. Man would eventually reunite in various permutations of the classic lineup, but to coin another cliché, All's Well That Ends Well proves only that all good things must come to an end.

Man - 1976 - Welsh Connection

Welsh Connection

01. The Ride and the View (5:01)
02. Out of Your Head (4:04)
03. Love Can Find a Way (5:13)
04. The Welsh Connection (7:18)
05. Something Is Happening (6:21)
06. Car Toon (6:01)
07. Born With a Future (7:07)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, vocals
- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- John McKenzie / bass, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, vocals

he 1976 release entitled WELSH CONNECTION is one of MAN's best efforts! If you have never heard anything by this talented and diverse group then let me help to fill you in.
The sound is rocking, but with that smooth flow and heavy distictive bass line that was such a part of the sound of the 1970's prog rock movement. The music featured is somewhat similar to groups of that period like PFM, NEKTAR, COLLISEUM2 and even CAN. The music has a fusion flavor and traces of electronica are tossed in for good measure!

This album flows from one cut to the next effortlessly and sounds fresh and, yes even progressive today! I used to see this in cut to bins years ago and it was fairly common, but now days MAN lps may be a bit hard to locate. I am not sure how much of their stuff has been released on cd, but it's safe to say that if you buy anything by MAN, that it will be good!

Stand out cuts on WELSH CONNECTION include side one opener THE RIDE AND THE VIEW (I have heard live versions of this but none compare to the excellent studio version heard here), OUT OF YOUR HEAD (this tune sticks with you) and the title track WELSH CONNECTION. All I can say about this one is, if you can find it GET IT!

Man - 1975 - Maximum Darkness

Maximum Darkness

01. 7171-551 (11:17)
02. Codeine (7:45)
03. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (6:19)
04. Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (13:42)
05. Bananas (11:09)

- Micky Jones / guitar, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitar, piano, vocals
- John Cipollina / guitar
- Martin Ace / bass, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, vocals

Live albums have always been hit and miss I think. I always think that we have not enough of them (in Man's case we are graced with plenty) There are a few cases where live releases are among a bands best (The Who and Deep Purple spring to mind) and this is no exception. Recorded during a tour that featured John Cipollina from west coast Quicksilver Messenger Service (Man's idols). For a start, the sound quality is amazing. It's crystal clear and all instruments balance out well in the mix. The songs are superbly performed, most of them extended beyond the original studio versions. A thing that is always essential for live LP's I've thought. It has been widely rumoured the Cipollina's playing was not up to expectations, so a little overdubbing was necessary. I dont know myself how much is true, but it still sounds totally live to me. You can feel the energy almost as if you are in the concert hall with them. They appear to be getting a lot of well deserved applause from the crowd. Without a doubt, my best live album of all time. Amazing stuff.

Man - 1975 - Slow Motion

Slow Motion

01. Hard Way to Die (5:22)
02. Grass Hopper (5:14)
03. Rock and Roll You Out (3:53)
04. You Don't Like Us (4:34)
05. Bedtime Bone (5:55)
06. One More Chance (4:28)
07. Rainbow Eyes (6:08)
08. Day and Night (4:06)

- Micky Jones / guitar, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitar, piano, vocals
- Ken Whaley / bass
- Terry Williams / drums, vocals

Recorded not long after the brilliant Rhino's, Man slipped a little with this one IMHO. Whilst having some pleasant moments, not all selections are up to scratch. Unusual as nearly all of the previous releases have been so consistent. Certain tracks like Bedtime Bone with it's jazz like time signatures and doomy riffs or the no- nonsence hard rocker Day and Night, are great. Others are not so good. I find Rainbow Eyes too slushy for my liking. A love song on a Man album does not work I'm afraid. Sorry!!

Man - 1974 - Rhinos,Winos & Lunatics

Rhinos,Winos & Lunatics

01. Taking the Easy Way Out Again (4:22)
02. The Thunder and The Lightning Kid (5:17)
03. California Silks and Satins (4:41)
04. Four Day Louise (6:04)
05. Intro (0:45)
06. Kerosene (6:30)
07. Scotch Corner (9:04)
08. Exit (1:23)

- Micky Jones / guitar, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, piano, vocals
- Malcolm Morley / keyboards, guitar, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion, vocals
- Ken Whaley / bass

For their seventh studio album, Man once again revised their line up with a former member returning, new members arriving, and others leaving. This perhaps contributes to the lack of identity on this 1974 release. While Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker was brought in to tighten up that side of things, the album was written and recorded with indecent haste, driven on by an absurdly tight deadline.

The dominant felling is of country or west coast; certainly far more American than Welsh. Three of the tracks on side one are loud, abrasive affairs with frankly average singing. "The thunder and lightning kid" features some Caravan keyboard sounds, while "Four day Louise" belts out a straight rock number with a repetitive guitar hook. The exception is "California silks and satins", a rare soft CSN influenced harmony piece.

The second side consists of just two long tracks, book ended by a brief "Intro" and "Exit". "Kerosene" has echoes of fellow countrymen BUDGIE, particularly in the high vocals. The track features some fine keyboards and wah wah guitar in a pleasantly laid back arrangement. The CSN vocal harmonies here sound rather out of place but are kept short, the track being dominated by the extended instrumental sections.

"Scotch corner", named after a road junction in North East England, is the longest track on the album. The country guitar rhythm of the opening section is reminiscent of Harry NILSSON, the track sounding similar to the work of HOME from a few years earlier. Lead guitar features heavily on this driving but ultimately unexciting number, the sound at times becoming rather muddled and unfocused.

While "Rhinos.." is not the sort of album which is ever going to win any top album awards (outside the band's own environment anyway), it is an enjoyable diversion. It represents the band well in terms of content, containing as it does largely second division songs which are adequately performed. There's little hint of prog though, the band remaining well within their comfort zone.

Incidentally, the papier-mâché Rhino featured in the sleeve picture was imprisoned in the equipment room where the photo was taken, apparently having been built too big to fit through the door.

Man - 1973 - Back Into The Future

Back Into The Future

01. A Night In Dad's Bag (4:04)
02. Just For You (5:13)
03. Back Into The Future (4:06)
04. Don't Go Away (4:00)
05. Ain't Their Fight (7:40)
06. Never Say Nups To Nepalese (7:32)
07. Sospan Fach (3:33)
08. C'mon (19:02)
09. Jam Up Jelly Tight/Oh No Not Again [Spunk Rock '73] (21:04)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion
- Tweke Lewis / guitars, vocals
- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- Will Youatt / bass, vocals

Considering that Man were given just a matter of weeks to come up with a new album following the surprise success of both previous studio album 'Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day' and the live offering 'Christmas At The Patti' it's a wonder the Welsh psych-rockers came up with something so good. And so long. A double-sided affair, 'Back Into The Future' mixed new studio tracks with live recordings and found the group on top form with both. The line-up of Micky Jones(guitar, vocals), Tweke Lewis(guitar), Phil Ryan(keyboards), Will Youatt(bass) and Terry Williams(drums) had just finished a tour of Germany and, by all accounts, had very little to work with upon entering the studio. However, despite the perceived difficulties surrounding the sessions and the tight recording schedule imposed by the label the group managed to fashion an impressive set of upbeat, good-time tracks that combined the usual flavours of acidic guitars, spiky keyboards and West coast- style harmonies. Although mainly rather brief-in-length, 'Back Into The Future' features some great Man workouts, the bouncy 'Just For You' blending woozy keyboards and slick vocal harmonies, 'Never Say Nups To A Nepalese' showcasing a nice line in dopey humour and a bravura, nineteen-minute-long live version of stone- cold classic 'C'mon'(from 'Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day') capturing Man in their natural live habitat and close to their scintillating best. Most of side two - taken from a 1973 performance at the Roundhouse, London - concentrates on more material from their previous studio effort, and yet again the playing is exemplary, as featured on the breathtaking, guitar-solo-heavy rendition of 'Spunk Rock '73'. Whilst previous Man studio efforts, and indeed future ones, would find the group struggling to replicate their live energy within the confines of the studio, this 1973 release bucks the trend, which may well be a result of having to get the goods in the can so quickly. There's a real lively feel to much of 'Back Into The Future' and those you have yet to explore the delights of 'the Welsh Grateful Dead' as they are so often called(the 'Welsh Quicksilver Messenger Service is probably more apt) then this is as good a place as a any to start. A rollicking, fun-time ride, this is very much a career high for all involved.

Man - 1972 - Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day

Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day

01. C'mon (11:03)
02. Keep On Crinting (8:18)
03. Bananas (9:28)
04. Life On The Road (7:14)
05. Bananas [early instrumental version]* (7:04)
06. Rockfield Jam* (3:14)

*Esoteric reissue bonus tracks

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Clive John / guitars, vocals
- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- Will Youatt / bass, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion

Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day is a bit of classic in the Man catalogue, not least because it contains the classics C'mon and Bananas which have been live favourites since this release in 1972. The album only contains four tracks so there's ample opportunity for the band to stretch out on the Psychedelic west coast influenced jams much like they do live.
This original version of C'mon sets a fine standard for the rest of the album to live up too. Less frantic than it usually is live it starts with a wonderful Micky Jones guitar riff familiar to all Man fans before settling into an easy groove courtesy of inventive drummer Terry Williams. Things are taken down a notch for the instrumental Organ dominated mid section before some of the bands trademark harmonies bring us back in to where we started. As testimony to the greatness of this track is it must have made more appearances on Man live albums than any other song by the band some of which are even better versions than this one here.

Keep On Crinting keeps the standard high with some lovely guitar picking and a great Williams shuffle on the drums. It's an instrumental with Phil Ryan's Keyboards (not always an instrument present in the band line up) given equal rein to the guitars of Jones and Clive John. (Yes, no Deke Leonard here who must have kicked himself for missing out on this one).

Bananas opens side 2 of the original vinyl version and as already mentioned was to become another Man classic with it's jagged rhythmic structure, though a more steady groove prevails, at least in part for the excellent instrumental interplay of the mid section which builds up to a frantic pace before things calm down again to fade out with some spacey guitar work.

Life On The Road closes and is a bluesy shuffle propelled by Williams and bassist Phil Youatt. Once again between the vocal sections there's space for instrumental workouts and although it's probably the weakest of the four tracks it's still an enjoyable listen not least for the guitar interplay between Jones and John.

This comes close to being the very best of Man studio albums but is just beaten by the brilliant Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics but due to the inclusion of the essential C'mon and Bananas makes it the perfect place to start your Man collection from.

Man - 1972 - Live At The Padget Rooms Penarth

Live At The Padget Rooms Penarth

01. Spunk Rock (previously unreleased) - 24:49
02. Many Are Called, But Few Get Up - 10:42
04. H. Samuel (Jam) - 19:27
05. Romain (previously unreleased) - 20:36
06. Daughter Of The Fireplace - 7:57

Michael "Micky" Jones - guitars, vocals
Roger "Deke" Leonard - guitars, vocals
Martin Ace - bass, vocals
Terrence "Terry" Williams - drums

Limited release of 8000

'Live At The Padget Rooms Penarth' is an excellent documentation of the band's live qualities. MAN's most solid line-up ever is on the stage in April 1972 consisting of Micky Jones, Deke Leonard, Martin Ace and Terry Williams. Clive John, formerely caring for organ and piano, has a break here.They are offering some extraordinary live versions of early band hits. The Esoteric Recordings double CD reissue rounds this up to an album which is really recommended to prog fans who want to explore the rich legacy of this Welsh band.
And important to point out - the complete evening seems to be presented in the right song order now. Never could mention Deke Leonard's guitar playing more varied alternating between space and rock n' roll! He is known for prefering the bluesy, boogie and american westcoach style but at least partially this is an old hat for this evening when listening to this gig.

MAN's performances are dedicated to free improvisations - they never played a song in the same way twice. And this especially applies to their wildest and most innovative times - the first half of the 1970s. So we have a long warm-up initiated by some announcements and jokes. It takes nearly seven spacey minutes until the main theme of Spunk Rock is to recognize for the first time. A very powerful version of this song furthermore which is concipated as a straightforward uptempo rock jam based on duelling as well as corresponding guitars and a rather simple repetitive bass.

The highlight is the band's perfect interplay - hard-earned due to playing uncounted gigs. Although stylistically coming from different fields Jones and Leonard complement each other - it's an enjoyment to follow their guitars interacting, swirling around, evolving contrary, finding together again - always alternating between rhythm and solo work. This is the band's trademark. If you have the chance to compare with the predecessor release you will recognize the improved sound quality. Martin Ace's deep bass is less dull - much more accentuated - great work by the sound engineers.

And it's always a special manifestation for me to follow Terry Williams' driving drum playing - a solid part of the band's uniqueness which unfortunately never could be brought back regarding the reunions in the 80s and 90s. So they are in a good mood after 25 minutes(!) when going over to Many Are Called, But Few Get Up - probably the best MAN composition ever and released in studio version only a few months before. This song has a quite complex skeleton far away from plain jamming - I would even say this is rather eclectic with its tension-filled behaviour holding polyphonic vocals, catchy moments, weird impressions ... this is really hard to describe.

Angel Easy is presented close to the original studio version also coming from the previous album 'Do You Like It Here Now'. Well, the piano is substituted by the second guitar here - but nevertheless a little bit more playful as for my impression. Second CD of the Esoteric reissue starts with H. Samual (Jam) - another twenty minute improv consisting of excerpts from the 1970 'Man' album. I would say this gets close to krautrock - the band eventually was on the road in Germany very often. The most experimental thing on this evening with lights and darks - a weird combination of different patches including 'Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes' and 'Alchemist'.

They continue with Romain which does not belong to my favourites because more presented with a straightforward rock n' roll fundament. It's a long runner though and given on nearly every concert by the band. Jones and Leonard are hunting each other during the last uptempo spacey minutes before the sirens appear. This is really impressing but as for the full length it may only work when you're at the venue. The encore Daughter Of The Fireplace - another one from the self-titled 'Man' album - closes the set and appears more sophisticated as the forerunner provided with a fulminant point of culmination.

So my conclusion: a big plus for the improved sound quality - CD 1 is very enjoyable where the second one decreases a bit. A recommended MAN album though - 3.5 stars. Not much later the line-up will change once more and prepare for the next studio highlight 'Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day'.

Man - 1971 - Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In

Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In

01. Angel Easy (5:02)
02. All Good Clean Fun (4:34)
03. We're Only Children (8:31)
04. Many Are Called But Few Get Up (7:29)
05. Manillo (5:17)
06. Love Your Life (9:05)
07. Many Are Called But Few Get Up* (9:31)
08. Angel Easy* (5:26)
09. Romain* (18:32)

*bonus tracks on 2007 Esoteric reissue
recorded live 1971, Gruga-Halle, Essen/Germany

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, piano, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion
- Clive John / organ, piano, vocals
- Martin Ace / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals

You know, I'm caught on the horns of a Dalai Lama with this album. To wit, how can such a hirsute gaggle of smoking enthusiasts capable of this stunning masterpiece have produced precisely squat of discernible merit before or since? I've never really believed in 'flukey' genius (as those hypothetically immortal monkeys astride typewriters with infinity to kill would eventually be whittled down to a partially shaved splinter group called the Grateful Dead) As far as grievously irritating hippy cosmiche w.a.n.k goes, the cited accomplices that conspired to forge this creation are strenuously denied parole as the public need to be protected from Bethnal Green impersonating California (i.e. Fleetwood Mac circa Albatross), together with known artless dodgers such as the Steve Miller Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the durable Dead etc. To my ears the west coast influences from these bloated jam slags are usually overstated and fail to evince the more palpable echoes of Jefferson Airplane and Family (erm...who weren't even from Bethnal Green) Unlike 2 Ozs. Of Plastic (With A Hole In The Middle) and Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day, there are no long spacey indulgences here and the prevalent mood is a welcome focus where the improvisation appears to have begat the songs and not vice versa. Therefore the discipline, restraint and structural rigour encountered throughout is completely at odds with the majority of the rest of their output. (So for those wishing to learn what might be the best Man album to buy, this review will be about as useful as dayglo tripwire)

Angel Easy approaches a jazzier and maybe funkier country rock, a place where Albert Lee would feel entirely at home. Similar to the Kinks' Muswell Hilbillies it's remarkable how five scruffs from Merthyr Tydfil who also draw so heavily from American idioms and rhythm and blues forms still manage to sound indelibly and naturally British on material like this.

Twin guitar bands are something of a consuming fetish for this rodent with Television, Barbaro, the Stones and Crimson all high on my list of those featuring partnerships where the twelve string whole conspires to be more than the sum of the individual six string parts. This exhilarating synergy is exemplified by Many Are Called But Few Get Up where Leonard and Jones negotiate a tangential steeplechase of metrical hurdles but still produce an uber moreish toe tapping textural treat. Subtle phasing and wah-wah effects are used to achieve this end and like the beautiful gently over-driven crunch which they coax from their amps, nothing is overcooked or underdone. Deliciously languid slide guitar occasionally winks coquettishly in our direction but is spirited quickly away, lending proceedings an anticipatory charge, like a lingering embrace. They also exploit key changes to mirror the desired atmospheric mood at any given time. Yep, these are exquisitely crafted songs where the ensemble writing and arranging process exploits all the player's strengths to best effect. In 1971 Man couldn't even get arrested in the UK (different story in Belgium where dope smuggling and people trafficking are often interchangeable, but you need to read Deke Leonard's sleeve-notes for that) They were however achieving modest success in Europe and had relocated to Darmstadt, Germany where like fellow ex pats Nektar, managed to shift sufficient units and attract enough gigs to make their music a viable commodity.

I first heard this album at 19 from a Glasgow public lending library after deciding to take a punt on the contents based solely on what I thought was a blasphemous gag on the cover i.e. the appeasing angels seem to say: here is your earthly paradise, please keep the noise down and try not to burn all the plants OK?

Manillo has the fattest acoustic guitar sound ever faithfully captured to tape before weight watchers started using electronic scales and unmarked vans. I'm not sure how they achieved this as I can't hear any incriminating phasing or chorusing artifacts in the resultant yummy fondant jangle. Perhaps they marinated the strings or the player's fingers in lard? This song is also notable for maybe the greatest punned evocation of indolence in the history of rock where the singer dispenses entirely with the frilly niceties of providing sufficient words for his very resilient melody:

I've got my eyes on the pillow, can't get to sleep All is manillo, mmm mmm mmm mmm

With the possible exceptions of John Lennon's I'm So Tired and Noel Coward's Coronation Chorale, (where the latter yawns 'on pitch') I ain't heard better and it never fails to make me smile. Take note of the sly key change for the chorus though, where an anguished gravitas descends as the song's central theme (withdrawal symptoms) is laid bare.

I can't move a leg and I can't move an arm and I can't understand what's doing me harm and the lonely pain grips your weary soul, and goes on and on and on on and on

Yes, Love Your Life has a sweltering pre colonial tom driven drum loop which introduces a killer riff but doesn't rest on it's catchy laurels and boasts an almost equally memorable developmental section to boot. Perhaps I've been too harsh on the lads hippy affectations up to now as ain't the gist here really amor fati as implored by that nemesis of the so called slave morality Nietzsche?. OK it's a tad tenuous but this strikes me as a wake up call to the sort of nihilistic and hedonistic drivel that passes for the rock'n'roll lifestyle as endorsed by its ungrateful dead.

Just marking time and standing still When you got no life you got no will The city people makin' bread I'm just as stupid, I'll be just as dead

The perceptive author has learned that those who inhabit the moral high ground are often susceptible to nose bleeds. You are also advised that Clive John's distorted organ solo is a thrilling slalom of abrasive and coruscating beauty that just builds and builds in ever increasing excitement until such time as the trumping riff does not merely return, but 'erupts' to bring this spiffy composition to a very satisfying conclusion.

Deke Leonard's sleeve notes reveal an impish mordant wit at play and it comes as no surprise that he has to date published at least two music related books under his own name. One being a history of Man (the band, otherwise he's clearly overreached himself) and the other a collection of essays about some of his favourite guitarists.

Traces of Man's Psyche lineage can be heard at their most overt on All Good Clean Fun which is a kaleidoscopic zero gravity ski jump replete with backwards vocals, Victorian whimsy, self depreciating humour and ladled with hallucinogenic brio. I suspect it was heavily edited into its current form as it seems to 'rush in from the middle' as though a preceding section has been unceremoniously hacked off. Splicing such dissociative effects into a modern digital mix is of course a piece of proverbial piss via Pro Tools but to approach this level of inspired derangement using the painstaking drudgery of manipulating a very thin and unforgiving piece of magnetic tape using a razor blade and 'flying blind' for the forensic timing accuracy required, beggars belief. Kudos are therefore due to engineers Kingsley Ward, George Chkiantz and Dave 'Rockpile' Edmunds. Which all begs the question, if/when they played this number live, did the vocalist have to learn to sing/pronounce the backwards bits erm...forwards? Meticulously ornate in places and ravishingly wanton in others (check out the three way dialogue between the two dueling guitars and Clive John's ironic 'starting pistol' piano) Reputedly the lyrics are an affectionate swipe at some of the other UA acts that appeared on the label's promotional tour which went out under the banner of 'All Good Clean Fun' but like many Man anecdotes, might be apocryphal.

To describe the drum sound on We're Only Children as 'crisp' would be like describing the Atlantic Ocean as 'moist'. Rarely have I heard a kit from the 70's sound this lean and parched so it therefore seems slightly perverse that drummer Terry Williams went on to become a willing accessory to at least two war crimes against timpanic membranes better known as the 'Dire Straits' and 'Meatloaf' atrocities. Slightly dippy lyrics on this one but hey, we're in the realm of patchouli oil, tie dye, cheesecloth, incense sticks and un-groomed men referring to each other as 'cats' ya dig? The textures deployed here are certainly reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac circa Albatross, but although Man draw generously from the former's haunting and plaintive beauty they dispense entirely with its soporific torpor.

Written, recorded and mixed in just one week Do You Like It Here Now? is ample proof that analogue technology foisted a discipline on musicians that for all it's merits, the 'unlimited undo' digital domain does not. You have to make choices in the analogue realm, be it committing to what takes are used for an (irreversible) 'bounce down' due to track limitations or if leaving those barely perceptible flaws in timing and pitch will actually help keep a performance inherently 'human?' There is a freshness and energy to these songs that must have been commensurate with their being written in the morning, recorded in the afternoon and mixed at night. Ideas pored over, tweaked, twiddled and fiddled with at inordinate length often result in fixing something until it breaks. Man were a bunch of happy campers at this point in their career having just signed to new label United Artists and were garnering a burgeoning reputation in mainland Europe from constant gigging. They might have had cause to pinch themselves: Here we are in our early 20's, safely ensconced at Rockfield Studios in the land of our fathers, dreaming of never having to get a 'proper' job again. Judging by Deke Leonard's version of events, the whole recording process was as smooth and easy as shooting six suicidal fish in a barrel and serving same to a hungry seal. Apart from possible industrial action by the employees of 'Rizla', there was very little external disruption that could have undermined this archetypical stoner band's only unimpeachable contribution to the legacy of rawk.
If you don't like this Man album, then you'll never like a Man album.

Man - 1971 - Man


01. Romain (6:03)
02. Country Girl (3:07)
03. Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having A Draw (12:49)
04. Daughter Of The Fireplace (5:11)
05. Alchemist (20:16)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, piano, vocals
- Terry Williams / drums, percussion
- Martin Ace / bass, acoustic guitar
- Clive John / organ, piano, guitar, harpsichord, vocals

 I know that Man was frequently of a divided personality, and I can generally lay blame on the band members who appear to have conflicting tastes, it's little wonder it's a miracle if they keep the same lineup for more than one album, kinda like Hawkwind (who also happened to share the same label, and even billing with them at one time). At least Hawkwind has been pretty consistent in what they done, you know what to expect. With Man, it's obvious that they're divided by blues, country, and '50s favored rock and rollers, and extended proggy and psychedelic piece, on the same album, no less, so it does make for a jarring experience, and nothing shows that more than their third album, a self-entitled album from 1971 on Liberty. This album was the first to bring in drummer Terry Williams, who, in the 1980s, found his fame and fortune in Dire Straits (he joined in 1982 just right after Love Over Gold came out). The album starts with "Romain", which apparently death with police treatment in Belgium, it's a blues-oriented rocker. This doesn't sound too encouraging. Worst is the next song, "Country Girl". Here they go all country on us, complete with pedal steel guitar, from Deke Leonard. What were they trying to do here? Get on the Grand Ole Opry? But then they take a drastic turn in direction, to my relief, for the next song, "Would the Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions are Having a Draw", much more in the psychedelic vein. How was this done by the same band? "Daughter of the Fireplace" is by far the best rocker on this album, I especially like that use of "liberty bell" in the middle. "Alchemist" clocks in at 20 minutes, and it's a really strange piece, it's as if Man was going all Krautrock on us. There's some nice use of glissando guitar (I'm sure was Deke Leonard using his pedal steel guitar in a similar manner that Daevid Allen did with his standard guitar). Pretty strange and ominous, might not be to everyone's liking. It's really obvious just how uneven this album is, it wouldn't be the first choice for the uninitiated (try Be Good To Yourself At Least Once a Day first), so it's one of those approach with caution albums.

Man - 1969 - 2 Ozs of Plastic (with a Hole in the Middle)

2 Ozs of Plastic (with a Hole in the Middle)

01. Prelude / The Storm (12:24)
03. It Is as It Must Be (8:30)
04. Spunk Box (5:52)
05. My Name Is Jesus Smith (4:06)
06. Parchment and Candles (1:52)
07. Brother Arnold's Red and White Striped Tent (5:06)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitar, vocals, harp, percussion, piano
- Clive John / organ, piano, guitar, vocals
- Ray Williams / bass, vocals
- Jeff Jones / drums, percussion

Man's second album was released in 1969, the same year as their debut. In an effort to emphasise the serious nature of their music, Pye records moved Man to their new Dawn label. Ironically, the album title is a flippant description of the physical make up of an LP record.

Relying more and more on instrumental prowess, the opening "Prelude/The storm" is an ambitious scene setter with clear delusions of grandeur. Things continue to build towards a seemingly limitless crescendo before easing off to an altogether more relaxing, almost ambient phase. As we move into "It is as it must be" (originally to be titled "Shit on the world" till the record company took fright), we begin to uncover what would become the essence of the band. Here we have a heavy, bluesy guitar driven riff laden number with the first vocals of the album. Apart from that brief vocal excursion, the track is primarily an elongated jam featuring lead guitar and harmonica.

In another example of wonderful incompetence, the record company took exception to the title of the third track. It was therefore changed from "Spunk rock" to "Spunk box" (a record company employee misunderstood the instructions and changed the wrong word!), although the former title has prevailed over time. In view of the way this track has been extended and developed in the live arena, the version here may sound a little tame. It remains though one of Man's signature numbers.

"My name is Jesus Smith" is the most commercial track on the album, reverting to the Bystanders (from whom Man evolved) light pop rock style with pleasant harmonies. Midway through, the song bizarrely transforms into a hoe-down style country piece.

"Parchment and candles" was reputedly performed on a harpsichord belonging to producer/song writer Tony Hatch, who took exception to the band using it without his permission and threw an Elton John style tantrum. The piece itself is a brief reflective instrumental, quite unlike what we have come to expect from Man. The album closes with a Budgie like romp through "Brother Arnold's red and white striped tent". Not a particularly memorable track by any means, but fine all the same.

In all, an album which sees Man starting to find a clear direction, while still experimenting with a few disparate styles. An enjoyable excursion.

Man - 1969 - Revelation


01. And in the Beginning (3:20)
02. Sudden Life (4:05)
03. Empty Room (3:30)
04. Puella! Puella! (Woman! Woman!) (3:25)
05. Love (2:58)
06. Erotica (4:02)
07. Blind Man (4:05)
08. And Castles Rise in Children's Eyes (3:21)
09. Don't Just Stand There (Come in Out of the Rain) (4:10)
10. The Missing Pieces (1:45)
11. The Future Hides Its Face (5:50)

- Micky Jones / guitars, vocals
- Deke Leonard / guitars, vocals, harp, piano, percussion
- Clive John / organ, guitar, piano, vocals
- Ray Williams / bass
- Jeff Jones / drums, percussion

MAN formed in the Swansea area of Wales from the ashes of the mid 60s harmony pop outfit, The Bystanders, and another local band The Dream. The two fused together, and became a more progressive outfit, signing to Pye Records. Their debut album, 'Revelation', being a fully fledged concept album. However, this gained little momentum and they shifted to Pye's 'progressive' imprint Dawn for the more experimental '2 Ozs of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle'. This made about the same amount of impact, and they changed labels entirely for their third eponymous album that was released on Liberty. Rather typically by now, this also didn't exactly set the world alight.

It was only when they signed to United Artists, which had re-established itself as a prominent prog label at this time. A run of very popular albums started from 'Do You Like It Here Now? Are You Setlling In' in 1971 through to the live album 'Maximum Darkness' in 1975. However, again their fortunes started to dwindle and after a few less successful albums for MCA they split. However, a short term reunion in 1983, and another in the early 90s which has continued to this day, has kept the band alive, despite the fact that pretty much every album has never featured the same line up twice!! Nowadays the band is led by the bass player Martin Ace, who has been an on/off member since around 1970.

Their best work is represented by '2 0zs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle', 'Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day' and 'Rhinos Winos and Lunatics'. The first two represent space rock at its best, and the latter one shows a more structured approach yet some of their finest songwriting is on that album. However, space rock fiends cannot go wrong with their original 1969-1977 run of albums.

This is where it all started for Man, way back in 1969. The band evolved from the pop-centric group The Bystanders with a clear ambition to explore some of the exciting new territories which were opening up as music entered one of the greatest periods in its entire history. In what has become one of the great traditions of prog, Man dived straight into a full blown concept album, the theme being the development of man.

These days, it is all but impossible to listen to the opening track "In the beginning.." without being reminded of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge". I challenge anyone not to imagine dwarves dancing round a 12" lump of stone as the track plays.

Liberal sound effects are used throughout the album to embellish what are otherwise ambitious but variable blues rock numbers. There is a rather jarring contrast between the final vestiges of The Bystanders on pop rock songs such as "Empty room" or "Love" and the heavier and less melodic tracks like "Sudden life". The former ("Empty room") actually sounds like a strange fusion of The Doors, Rush and the Mamas and The Papas!

The first real hints of anything potentially prog we get are on "Puella! Puella!", which features some nice flute touches and effective harmony vocals. The recording of "Erotica" appears to have involved a dark room and committed role playing, the results being released successfully as a single in the more liberated parts of Europe. The underlying music is of the dreamy 60's acid party type.

"Blind man" is a straightforward blues rocker, or so it seems until the track completely changes for the closing minute or so which comes across as a crossed wire from a Demis Roussos album. Later tracks such as "And the castles rise in children's eyes" and "Don't just stand there" have suggestions of bands such as The Nice, and Beggar's Opera, the organ playing of Clive John being rather Emerson like at times. The album concludes with a space landing and an atomic explosion.

In all, a refreshingly innocent Man album, which sees them exploring a number of styles and sounds they would quickly discard. The overall impression can at times be one of clumsiness, but we must keep in mind that this goes way back to the origins (of Man) in 1968/9, and as such should not be compared with their most revered albums.

Incidentally, the sleeve image was not originally intended to be so basic, the idea was to see the band naked in the desert on the front, and smartly dressed in the city on the back.