MCA 1977 / Esoteric 2014
The last hurray from the Welsh finest – preserved in a time capsule and restored in all its proggy glory.
As punky as they’ve often sounded, MAN didn’t feel good in the atmosphere of 1976 – mainly due to their inner discrepancies and idiosyncrasies – and decided to call it quits at the end of the year, yet quiet demise it wasn’t. In order to go out with a bang, the band played three dates at London’s “Roundhouse” in December to commit their show to tape it for posterity and, after one more concert, went separate ways. The recorded performances don’t reflect the sense of fatality, though, rather a closure as underscored by the “History of Man” booklet which accompanied initial pressings of “All’s Well That Ends Well” that saw the light of day almost a year later in quite a concise form. The brochure and the album are included in this 3CD-box that holds not only the familiar sonic artifact, remastered for clarity, but also the full gig compiled from two evenings at the Chalk Farm venue to completely change one’s perception of the stage proceedings there and then.
All the highlights, or milestones, including a half of the MAN’s latest LP, “The Welsh Connection,” grace both versions, but it’s what’s didn’t make the original cut, plus stage banter, that hits home the most. While the relaxed boogie of “Let The Good Times Roll” is a perfect mood-setter and “Spunk Rock” comes on as monumental as ever, the elegantly crazy 12 minutes of “Bananas” blows the punters out of the water, and a previously unreleased take on “7171 551” – cosmically funky, with Phil Ryan’s organ underpinning the guitar grit – might be the best in the MANband canon. The same magic imbues the aforementioned platter’s title track which marries mellifluous vocal harmonies to the twin six-string web which Deke Leonard and Micky Jones weave on a prog loom, and the sensual swagger carrying the rare “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” that rages and relapses on John McKenzie’s bass bedrock. Yet the ensemble’s interplay shines the brightest on spaced-out, if tight, epics “Many Are Called, But Few Get Up” with Terry Williams’ drumming rumble and “C’mon” where improvisation rules the game outshining even the frantic flow of “Born With A Future.”
Indeed, as it turned out, there was a future for MAN who came back in 1983 and still do their thing, so the album’s title proved to be prophetic, and the record itself still is a testament to the band’s vitality.