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MAN At the Roundhouse 1976 Voiceprint VPDVD36(2007)
Fitting 1976 swansong.. Man

'Man at the Roundhouse 1976' is an essential purchase for both fans of the band and 70's rock fans alike, who will surely delight in this great swansong performance by one of Wales's greatest bands.

Man had started life as the Bystanders in 1968 and became Man before the turn of the year as somewhere the lines became blurred between pop harmonies and psychedelic rock.

8 years on and 1500 or more shows down the line - so the excellent accompanying documentary tells us - Man were finally calling it a day.

Interestingly, at the time it was said they had gone as far as they could, while later the rise of Punk was cited, but the interview clips with the band make clear that there were disputes in the band while then manager Barry Marshall (later to find fame as Marshall Arts) pointed to disappointing financial return and a changing music biz norms.

But whatever the reasons, Man's last three show residency in London catches them in their very best form.

And while attention is inevitably drawn to some wonderful sinewy playing from Micky Jones and some characteristic fiery licks from Deke, it is the magnificent rhythm section that carries the band forward. Terry Williams was always a brilliantly versatile drummer, but it is the often overlooked bass player John McKenzie who gives the band a new dimension bringing some beautifully funky bottom end to the band muscular arrangements.

And as the gig gathers momentum, he comes into his own on both ‘Born with a Future, Die with a Past', and in the instrumental section of ‘Bananas' on which Micky is superlative.

Man were always known as a band who took their inspiration from the West Coast, and in McKenzie, Micky probably found the closest musical ally he ever had to one of his musical heroes, the Airplane's Jack Cassady.

The point is that Micky's interplay with both John and keyboard player Phil Ryan echoes the subtext of the band in which Deke's jagged rockier approach mirrors his conflicting views of the band with Micky.

But it is the brilliant resolution of this conflict on Deke's superlative riff driven ‘7171-551' as well as the inspired ‘C'Mon' and the co-written compromise ‘Born With A Future' that makes this live footage as good as it gets.

As Barry Marshal reflects, it was hard to get media interest for an album band with 13 line-ups, but in that context Man's music was always the triumph of the aesthetic over commerciality and if they ultimately split partly because of financial concerns, then in a perverse way their riff driven music won the day.

The live footage closes with Micky shouting to the crowd that he will remember this gig, as he launches a plastic banana into the crowd.

Better to sing about bananas than slip on their skins, and the band chose the right moment for a sabbatical, before returning in the next decade.


Review by Pete Feenstra

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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