The Ascent of Mann...
'Then and Now' just about justifies its 4 star rating if only because of the unseen early band footage and all too rare Manfred Mann interviews, both then and now!
Not so much a career retrospective as flash back to the beginning of the Earth Band circa 72 and a flash forward to current times, 'Then and Now' has its moments but would have been bolstered with some bonus footage of both Chris Thompson and the late Steve Waller, who were important mainstays in the band; that said, there's an accompanying CD box set reviewed elsewhere.
But then with any project spanning nearly 40 years there's always the question of what to choose or what leave out. But the selling point of 'Then and Now' will undoubtedly be the splendid early career footage of the band in Australia.
Mick Rogers strikes a commanding frontman, explainable of course by the fact that he was already known in his native Australia before joining Manfred. As always he's a confident vocalist and fine guitarist acting as the perfect foil for Manfred's Moog Synth noodlings. The first such extended solo on the otherwise ponderous 'Black and Blue' must have sounded amazing back in '72 and still sounds incredible all these years later. As with his later career, Manfred had the foresight to cover a local band's hit – in this case The Chain - and combined with Mick Rogers' presence he had already made inroads into the Aussie rock scene.
Manfred meanwhile goes on to introduce 'Mighty Quinn' with a heavy sense of irony, sipping deeply from his accompanying cup of tea to announce 'We'd like to do one more, which is a song we recorded in 1967 when I used to be a pop star'. The funky intro eventually gives way to further Manfred keyboard explorations and an all round jammed out band thrash before shifting inevitably to the chorus. It's a veritable a Prog rock delight!
The following interview of the time is full of Manfred's rueful answers, including a doleful reply as to how long he's been in show business; 'Oh since the Franco Prussian War'. Manfred further reveals how he made the connection between listening to Modern Jazz back in his native South Africa and Rock.
The archive section of the DVD is neatly completed by a great clip of Manfred Mann's Chapter Three complete with a full 5 piece horn section.
The 'Now' section is perhaps less compelling, as Manfred combines the two staples of his career, some well chosen covers and a festival crowd. Mick Rogers provides project continuity with another sterling performance on one of the Earth Band favourites 'Father of Day, Father of Night'
The big hitters inevitably round off the festival footage with 'Blinded by the Light' featuring a curious Manfred's electric piano keyboard part which is way back in the mix. There's an audio glitch at 24.07 as Noel McCalla's soulful vocals suddenly bring the band back into the chorus.
Noel also makes a good fist of tackling 'Demolition Man', but it would have been nice to have at least one bonus track of the late great Steve Waller performing this song. 'Davy's On the Road Again' rocks out the crowd and there's an additional lovely guitar melody line from 'I Came for You'.
The closing interview features Manfred without his hat and is a lovely career reprise.
A must have DVD for band fans 'Then and Now' is an interesting if not essential purchase.
Review by Pete Feenstra