Album review: MANFRED MANN – EP Collection

Manfred Mann EP Collection

Brollyeps [Release date 04.11.13]

Manfred Mann has been well served by recent reissues, not least 2011′s splendid box set.  However, it is left to this latest collection to showcase the sixties incarnation of his band when he had Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness in the ranks and a string of hit singles.

This set of 7 discs in authentic facsimilie card covers replicates the band’s EP’s (on the HMV label) and given that they only ever released two albums during the period these provide an additional source of repertoire, albeit in mostly two minute bursts.

From the first disc, 1964′s ‘Cock-A-Hoop’, it is clearly evident that here was a bunch of excellent musos – especially displayed on the jazzy  instrumental ‘Why Should We Not’ – whilst the title track is the first to feature frontman (and harmonica player) Paul Jones who became something of a pin-up for ladies of a certain age in the age of pirate radio and beehive hair-dos.  The crowning glory here, though, is the band’s first big hit ’5-4-3-2-1′.

The band’s second hit single ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ appears on ‘Groovin’ With Manfred Mann’ along with two Paul Jones compositions that show his R&B roots punctuated by his harp playing.

Although after this time the band purveyed a sort of pop/rock hybrid with ever an eye on chart success (both in the UK and US), the EPs continued to reveal their jazzier musical roots.  On ‘The One In the Middle’ (which topped the UK EP charts in the summer of 1965) ‘Watermelon Man’ features a distinctive Mike Vickers sax solo whilst the band tackle one of several covers spread through this collection, Bob Dylan’s ‘With God On Our Side’.

The band were to have a special relationship with his Bobness and their next major hit single ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’ presaged their biggest worldwide single chart success (although with singer Mike d’Abo) ‘The Mighty Quinn.’

The fourth EP ‘No Living Without Loving’ (which made the top of the UK EP charts in December 1965) includes a version of ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ (originally a hit for The Coasters) and ‘I Put A Spell On You’ whilst Tom McGuinness’ original liner note is a wry comment on the commercialisation of a band’s sound and the resulting lack of privacy.  As he wrote later, the band originally ‘dwelt together in the light of Mingus’ and to that extent ‘pop’ success must have somewhat compromised their credentials.

The following year’s ‘Machines’ was more adventurous, especially the title track.  It benefits from Manfred Mann’s audible Hammond which is also more evident on  Jones’ breezy ‘She Needs  Company’  and the two covers ‘Tennessee Waltz’ and ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

‘Instrumental Asylum’ is just that.  Four covers – ‘Still I’m Sad’, ‘My Generation’, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ‘I Got You Babe’ – attest the band’s omnipresent musical prowess and switches the clock back to their earliest work when treading the boards on the beat circuit in early sixties London.

The cover shot reflects a band in transition (The seventh disc in this set – ‘Aswas’ – is the Paul Jones-fronted line-up’s swansong).  Future Cream bassist Jack Bruce is included and although he did spend a time with the band it is not clear if he plays on this EP.

And, indeed, it is that lack of information, other than the contemporary and typically unfathomable liner,  that is the problem with this release in general.  There’s room for a nice thick booklet with suitable commentary, interviews and memorabilia and that would have really enhanced what is an otherwise excellent reissue.

But, as with that boxed set for the later version of Manfred Mann’s musical sorties, this collection does shine a light on a particularly fruitful formative period for both the keyboard player and his charismatic frontman.  ****

Review by David Randall

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