29 May 2018 (released)
29 May 2018
Back in 1963, when the Beatles were riding high and the British Blues Boom was kicking off, 5 guys were signed by HMV who promptly changed their name from the Blues Brothers to Manfred Mann.
These four album constitute a significant part of their relationship with HMV/EMI from their debut album ‘The Five Faces Of Manfred Mann’, their sophomore album ‘Mann Made’ and two albums released by EMI after they had moved to Fontana Records ‘Mann Made Hits’ which featured their hit single and ‘Soul Of Mann’, a series of instrumentals.
Anyone familiar with R&B classics will recognize most of the material on ‘The Five Faces Of…’, kicking off with a slightly ponderous ‘Smokestack Lightning’ but kicking into a higher gear with Muddy Waters ‘I’ve Got My Mojo Working’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie’. ‘Down The Road Apiece’ has a grand sense of swagger about it. The undoubted star of the album is Paul Jones whose vocals and harmonica stand out as real weapons but Mike Hugg & Mike Vickers give the band some powerful R&B chops alongside Jones.
‘Mann Made is definitely more mature. The band had been touring constantly and in between recording at Abbey Road. Again, there are a number of covers – what else would the band do on tour but listen to music – but Mike Vickers, Mike Hugg & Tom McGuinness all have one of their own numbers on the album. There is very much a sense of the band working together as a unit rather than just as Paul Jones backing band and they cross naturally over into Blues, Jazz, R&B as the song calls for it. It is actually a very satisfying album, definitely showing the band in flight as opposed to being blue-eyed star gazers.
Up to this point there is no mention of the hits. Most of the singles were not album tracks as was pretty common in the early days. So when the band signed for Fontana EMI put the hits out as an album – hence ‘Mann Made Hits’. A great set they are too. From ‘Pretty Flamingo’ to ‘The One In The Middle’ (Paul Jones tongue-in-cheek ode to himself) and a stirring version of Dylan’s ‘With God On Our Side’. The album is hit after hit but that is no bad thing – especially if you get versions of ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’ and a hip-tastic ‘Groovin’ thrown in. It is interesting that the band is labelled as Manfred Mann featuring Paul Jones – he had officially left the band by now and signed for EMI who then dropped the band (the reason for them moving to Fontana).
‘Soul Of Mann’ is, on the face of it, not the most exciting of the four. All instrumental and showing the strong jazz & R&B roots of the band but some of the playing is exquisite, really showing their many talents off. Mann’s keyboards on ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ is brilliant while Mike Hugg’s drums and vibraphone throughout are spot on. A number of these tracks feature a certain Jack Bruce on bass with Tom McGuinness moving on to lead guitar.
The quality of the remastering on all four of these albums is superb – I have heard a lot of these tracks elsewhere but never sounding this crisp and clean (everything here was originally released in mono and the production has avoided any fake stereo separation).
All told, a worthwhile set of discs. A few stinkers but not many, and a lot of very good music.