Album review: MAN – The Twang Dynasty Clamshell Boxset Edition

 Esoteric [Release date 28.07.14]
‘The Twang Dynasty’ was Man’s first studio album for 16 years, though being Man they did manage a couple of live albums.  They split for 9 years between 1976 and ‘83 and after a couple of abortive efforts at recording a studio album they found themselves in a small label situation with a minuscule budget. But suitably fired up by a new found self reliance and surprisingly good material they produced ‘The Twang Dynasty’, a confident come-back album lacking only a potent production and better sequencing.

This re-mastered CD box set version of ‘Twang’ comes as part of Esoteric’s relentless Man re-issue programme and it’s heartily recommended. Aside from the re-mastered original CD, there are also two bonus albums of Man’s performance at the Glastonbury Festival in June 1994.

Significantly, the best moments on the 2 bonus discs are to be found on the new material, with ‘The Wings of Mercury’ being the perfect finish to a spirited live set. All in all, it sounded as if they still had much to offer as they moved into the veteran status of their career.

The original ‘Twang’ album may suffer from a rather flat production reflecting the small studio environment, but there’s no denying Deke’s biting riff-led ‘A Feather on the Scales of Justice’ and his hugely underrated ‘Out of the Darkness’. Micky’s solo’s on the Martin Ace penned ‘Mad On Her – a pun on Madonna – is sublime, while Martin’s lyrics also raise a smile: ‘This girl’s a surgeon, she’ll cut out your heart’. The band also provides impressive bv’s before an over extended outro.

‘Jumping Like A Kangaroo’ caused much debate among long time fans, some suggesting the irreverent song has no place in the Man catalogue, while others would argue Micky’s slide work alone was worth the journey. It’s also hard to ignore Martin’s wry humour: ‘Standing in the darkness holding me tight, she’s got a grip like a grisly bear’, a line mirrored by John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers muscular drumming.

The major problem with ‘Twang’ is actually the sequencing. ‘The Chimes At Midnight’ (despite a sizzling opening guitar line) and the poppy ‘The Price’ feel strangely out of place on a riff-led album. ‘Fast And Dangerous’ zips along nicely, but all 3 songs sound as if they come from a different session.

‘Chimes’ opens promisingly enough with a stellar guitar line and Beatles style bv’s, but lacks a requisite hook, while the intro to The Price’ evokes  ‘Many Are Called But Few Get Up’, but leads into a Police style arrangement, while Martin’s phrasing deserves a better hook. Given the uplifting chiming guitars, it might have been better placed as the penultimate track and as a foil for the anthemic ‘The Wings of Mercury’.

‘Circumstances’ is the complete opposite, as Deke spits out his dichotomous lyrics on an undeniably catchy mid-tempo dirge, while ‘Women’ is perhaps one of Man’s most underrated songs. Its got a zip, funk and a growled out Micky vocal over a huge drum pattern, great bv’s and a mega guitar break, that led to suggestions of it being a single.

At this point Twang reverts to feeling like a coherent album again and ‘Chinese Cut’ is another Deke classic with Micky’s gnawing guitar intro, rock solid drums and eclectic lyrics: ‘It’s time before the Chinese cut, it’s time before the door to shut, its time before the arrow drive’.

‘Out Of The Darkness’ is even better, bolstered by another massive Pugwash drum sound.  Martin’s bass rumbles along nicely, as Deke’s best vocal cuts through the ether, and Micky’s guitar line meanders round the verse giving it an unstoppable momentum.

The closing ‘The Wings of Mercury’ is their tribute to Quicksilver’s John Cipollina in a collective flash back to happier days.

After a protracted period of recording inactivity, ‘The Twang Dynasty’ suggested Man still had much to offer. As Michael Heatley’s liner notes correctly suggest, they had updated their sound with fresh material played with vigour and spunk, it’s Man after all!

The 2 bonus CD’s include familiar fare from the Glastonbury Festival, previously released on ‘Man 1994 Official Bootleg’. But the two bonus CD’s add the previously omitted ‘Many Are Called’, with its atmospheric mid-section full of Steve Miller style seagull and whale guitar noises taken from the band’s early career ‘The Storm’, and a rough and ready version of ‘Romain’.

Deke’s extended slide intro to ‘The Ride & The View’, gives way to Micky’s slide figure from ‘Day & Night’, before the duo slip into a mesmerising dual guitar line, on a monumental Weathers’ driven groove. You can almost feel the guitar avalanche sweeping away the band’s frustration as they power their way to a deserved reception.

The ‘Twang Dynasty’ box set is a must for Man fans while rock fans of a certain age will similarly find much to enjoy. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra 

In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 24 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)

Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)

THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)

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