Esoteric [Release date 17.02.14]
Man’s ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ is a splendid reminder that there was still some great music being made just before punk hit the rock scene like an unexpected sledgehammer.
This album was supposed to be the band’s farewell recording. They bowed out on a high, only to return again in ‘83 with more west coast influenced music that infuses these three live discs with some memorable moments.
The whole package comes with Michael Heatley’s cogent liner notes and a full Man family tree, spanning the bands full 7 year career. It seemed a lengthy stretch at the time but has long been subsumed by other reformed bands of the era.
Back ‘76 Man were real contenders, having built up a solid following through relentless gigging, astute management by Barry Marshall and an affinity with the Westcoast of the States, which led to a connection with Quicksilver’s John Cipollina, represented here by ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’, on which Micky excels.
Disc one features the remastered original disc, while discs two and three feature the whole concert, culled from the first two of three sell out nights at the Roundhouse, all newly mixed from 24-track mater tapes.
Guitarists Micky Jones and Deke Leonard are in fine form and keyboard player Phil Ryan is their equal, shifting from a supporting role to featured soloist on the magnificent ‘Welsh Connection’, as the three front line players coalesce beautifully in an exhilarating finish.
Best of all is the way the hugely underrated bassist John McKenzie and drummer Terry Williams power the quintet through a set of jammed out eloquence. Williams is a mixture of power, poise and restraint, while McKenzie’s sumptuous bass lines glue everything together, especially on the jammed out end-section of both versions of ‘Born With A Future’.
Disc two features the riff driven ‘7171 551’ and Micky sparkles on ‘The Ride & The View’, adding wah-wah and echo reverb to his ascending solo into the stars. ‘C’mon’ is completely rearranged, and reverts to an extended psychedelic intro, before Terry’s cymbals snap the band into a classic jam featuring Phil on extended organ and synth solo over some funky rhythm guitar.
As always Man’s razor sharp playing and intuitive interplay stands in sharp contrast to their laid back stage presence, but this was an era when music still triumphed over image.
They finish with a flourish, teetering on the brink of psychedelic abandon on ‘Many Are Called But Few Get Up’ and rock out on Deke’s ‘A Hard Way To Live’. Their very own hippy anthem ‘Bananas’ is played with a refreshing sense of urgency, before a seemingly relieved Micky shouts out: “the last Bananas”.
Best of all they extemporise on ‘Spunk Rock’, before shuffling into apparent retirement with ‘Romain’, leaving DJ Andy Dunkley to thank Terry Jones on guitar! It was that kind of night!
‘All’s Well That End Well’ does indeed sound like a band who had gone the distance. When it was finally time to quit they gave it their best shot and the results speak for themselves. Recommended. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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