Man - 'The Twang Dynasty' / 'Call Down The Moon'

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Man - 'The Twang Dynasty' / 'Call Down The Moon'

Two re-issues of classic Man albums.

The re-issue of Man's 1992 "comeback" album, 'The Twang Dynasty', is a thing of wonder – a re-mastered and expanded three-disc version which, in addition to the original studio album, features a hundred minute, two-disc recording of their entire set from Glastonbury in 1994. It's beautifully packaged in a box-set that includes a sixteen page booklet crammed with pictures, Deke Leonard's original sleeve notes and a new and informative essay from Michael Heatley.

The line-up consists of Micky Jones (guitars/vocals), Leonard (guitars/vocals), Martin Ace (bass/vocals) and "new boy" John "Pugwash" Weathers (drums/vocals), formerly of Gentle Giant. Incredibly, '...Dynasty' features the fourteenth Man line-up, though to be fair, this particular one had been together for most of the period since the Manband's 1983 reunion, and is the longest serving line-up in Man's extensive and convoluted history.

It is also worth noting that there was a gap of sixteen years between '...Dynasty' and previous studio outing 'The Welsh Connection'. One might well wonder what, if anything, the intervening years and Man's 1980s experience had done to their sound. Well, to these ears, many of Man's distinctive traits are evident on '...Dynasty' and their characteristic feel and vibe was alive and well. The Leonard sung opener, 'A Feather On The Scales of Justice', for example, instantly puts Man fans at ease. That said the production is crisp, and most of the tracks admirably succinct and accessible, with some ('Women', for example) suggesting commercial possibilities.

Lead vocals are shared. Ace takes the lead on the Madonna-punning 'Mad On Her', 'Jumpin' Like A Kangaroo', 'The Price' and 'Fast And Dangerous' (which, apparently, was used on TV trailers for 'The Fast Show'). Leonard is back in the shop window for the off-kilter Blues of 'The Chinese Cut' and 'Out Of The Darkness', while Jones picks up lead vocal duties on 'The Chimes At Midnight' and 'The Wings Of Mercury'. The latter is the band's tribute to Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina who died in 1989 and who had briefly toured and played with Man back in the 1970s.

The Glastonbury performance is superb. It opens with an eighteen minute version of the classic 'C'mon', with four tracks from '...Dynasty' included in the set ('Mad...', '...Cut', '...Mercury' and '...Justice'), alongside other weighty classics and 'Even Visionaries Go Blind'; a track written for the aborted "German album" in the 1980s but left off '...Dynasty'. Apart from 'C'mon', the classics nestle together on the second Glasto disc, which kicks off with a nineteen minute version of 'The Ride And The View' as the band announce "some serious Psychedelic Rocking". A great version of 'Many Are Called (But Few Get Up)' incorporates sections of 'The Storm' from 1969, while encores 'Bananas' and 'Romain' bring matters to a rousing conclusion. This two-disc set is an excellent inclusion and is highly recommended listening.

'Call Down The Moon' is a newly re-mastered re-issue of the 1995 studio album that is generally held to include some of their strongest "later years" material. Produced by former DJ and long time Man fan Ron Sanchez, it features the same line-up as '...Dynasty'; as such there is a real sense of continuity and a strong band feel. On this occasion, however, Leonard largely restricts himself to keyboards, leaving guitar duties entirely to Jones on all but two tracks.

As with '...Dynasty', although the production is modern, Man's identity is clearly discernible, with Sanchez determined to produce an album that had "the classic Man sounds we all expect to hear". Indeed, the excellent title track grows from a riff that emerged from the band's improvised live elongation of 'C'mon' (which can be heard on the Glastonbury performance described above).

Other highlights for me include the delightful and Bluesy 'Dream Away', here sung by Jones, the quirky 'Heaven & Hell', which sees Leonard joining Jones' vocal on the chorus, and the lengthy and ambitious 'Drivin' Around' which, in its jam section, reintroduces the musical theme of earlier track 'If I Were You'. As with '...Dynasty' the vocals are a real band effort. Ace steps up for 'The Man With X-Ray Eyes', while Weathers takes centre stage for the entertaining album closer 'Burn My Workin' Clothes'.

Two bonus tracks are included – the initial Leonard-sung version of 'Dream Away', that Leonard and Jones subsequently decided to overhaul, and the curiously titled 'Micky Buys A Round', the one "unfinished" track from the album sessions which, although not intended as an instrumental, lacks a vocal.

The album was recorded in Seattle, home of Grunge, in 1994. Despite this, Sanchez and the band succeeded in recording an album in the fine Man tradition rather than one that pandered to the demands of modernity and popular trends. Really, much of what's here could have been recorded at any point in Man's history. Does that make it timeless or dated? My money's on the former, but I'd encourage you to grab a copy and make your own mind up.

Michael Anthony

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