A half hearted attempt to review
the live work of thirty-five years of
Welsh Rockers Man on their latest release
Over the last thirty-five years, the
goodly folk of Swansea, Wales, have been
trying to let the world know about their
favorite sons 'Man', which have mostly
fallen on deaf ears. That is all the more
remarkable as they really are very good.
They are never backwards about coming
forward or hiding their light under a
bushel. Oh yes, there have been other
singers and bands from Wales. Tom Jones
and Charlotte Church have flexed their
mighty Welsh throats to applause from
every nook and cranny the world has to
offer. That great flying heavy metal thunder
of "Budgie" once ruled the waves,
whilst "The Stereophonics" and
"The Manic Street Preachers"
often charged up the charts. But one feels
they aren't quite as truly Welsh as the
sons of Mrs. Jones, Leonard, Williams,
Ace, Ryan, and all.
Not that these Welsh musical wizards
haven't dashed up the album charts on
both sides of the Atlantic themselves,
one just feels that perhaps they haven't
really been given the full acclaim that
they deserve. Maybe there are some obvious
reasons for this quick change of personnel
as they definitely make Spinal Tap look
like a conservative and stable lineup.
All bands have their influences, but Man
seem to have absorbed more than most,
with sometimes consecutive tracks on one
studio album sounding like a totally different
band. It is always rock music, but varying
from Space/Rock to Heavy Metal.
This collection starts in 1972 with the
guitar and vocals of Mick Jones and Deke
Leonard joined on stage by bassist Ace
Martin and drummer Terry Williams at the
Roundhouse in London. It was a benefit
concert for the hippie charity group Greasy
Truckers in what many would claim to be
the ultimate Man track 'Spunk Rock'. In
its original studio incarnation it was
six minutes long, but here we get the
fully improvised twenty-two minutes. One
can only wonder how long this track would
have been, had they not been faded out
after the song had been going on for quite
some time. Wonderful stuff all the same.
Deke Leonard and Mick Jones vocals and
guitars swoop in and out of the song.
The guitar notes fly out like raindrops,
either splashing onto the audience with
the venom of Thor with his mighty axe,
or reaching out with the caress of a kiss.
In today's live set Spunk Rock is normally
held back to be given a real dusting up
as the encore.
But Man being Man, within a year Leonard
and Ace had been unceremoniously dumped
out of the band (don't worry, they will
both be back) to be replaced by Phil Ryan
on keyboards, Will Youatt on bass, and
returning founder member Clive John on
guitar. This lineup came up with the classic
Man album 'Be Good to Yourself At Least
Once A Day'. The album had only four tracks,
but was still over forty minutes long.
We get three live versions of these songs
on this collection.
'Life On The Road' is literally a tale
of the woes of life on the road, with
its Wishbone Ash dual lead guitar sound
and finishing with both guitars wailing
away like police sirens. Through the years
Man were no strangers to the long arm
of the law, but our heroes usually managed
to scamper away in time.
You also get the song from the same concert
at London's rainbow theatre 'C'mon', which
would be a delight to any Pink Floyd fan,
and 'Bananas’, which has to be one
of the funniest rock songs ever written.
The later two songs are still required
hearing at any Man concert today. Even
though Deke Leonard was not in at the
recording of these classic Man songs,
but has been playing them live on and
off for thirty years. His unbiased opinion
cleverly uttered with the words: "when
you go to a restaurant you expect to find
your favorite dish on the menu”.
As if to even things up we then jump
forward in time to 1999 to finish the
first disc of this set with a version
of 7171 551 recorded by and released on
one of Deke Leonard's solo albums, "Iceberg",
when he was on one of his sabbaticals
from the band in the early seventies.
There are only five songs on this first
disc, but it still times in at over seventy-two
Disc two contains ten songs from 1975
to 1999, including three tunes from their
triumphant return to the stage for the
Glastonbury festival in 1994. It starts
off with the two minutes thirty seconds
Man boogie 'Hard Way To Live', includes
the highly charged 'Romain', the violent
story of a certain officer's dealing with
Martin Ace, and finishes with the ten
minutes of Glastonbury set closer, the
epic 'The Ride and The View’.
For anybody wondering what the fuss was
about from these boys from the valleys,
this set, 'Man Alive', makes a marvelous
starting point for the ears. For those
of you who would like to know a bit more
about the origins of Man, look no further
than Deke Leonard's autobiography “Rhinos,
Winos, and Lunatics”, the story
of a rock ‘n’ roll band. Never
has the field of rock ‘n’
roll been so candidly exposed or comically
Because of the constantly changing lineup
of Man, it is impossible to list all the
musicians that played on these two C.D.
sets of recordings. I doubt whether even
the players themselves know for sure who
was there and who wasn't, especially in
the turbulent seventies. But Mott's Dream
Man Band would be…
Gathered by Mott The Dog
Reaped by Ella Crew
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