Dec 23, 2011

MANFRED MANN - FIVE FACES OF MANFRED MANN (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1964) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 13 Bonus

The HMV years 1
The debut album by Manfred Mann holds up even better 40 years on than it did in 1964. It's also one of the longest LPs of its era, clocking in at 39 minutes, and there's not a wasted note or a song extended too far among its 14 tracks. The Manfreds never had the reputation that the Rolling Stones enjoyed, which is a shame, because The Five Faces of Manfred Mann is one of the great blues-based British invasion albums; it's a hot, rocking record that benefits from some virtuoso playing as well, and some of the best singing of its era, courtesy of Paul Jones, who blew most of his rivals out of the competition with his magnificently impassioned, soulful performance on "Untie Me," and his simmering, lusty renditions of "Smokestack Lightning" and "Bring It to Jerome." The stereo mix of the album, which never surfaced officially in England until EMI's anniversary reissue (remastered in 24-bit digital sound), holds up very nicely, with sharp separation between the channels yet -- apart from a few moments on "Untie Me" -- few moments of artificiality.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - MANN MADE (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1965) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 12 bonus

The HMV years 2
The group's second British album, released just as the original lineup was entering a state of collapse with the impending departure of two key members, shows some of the changes that can happen in a year, as they move away from Chess Records' brand of blues as their baseline. Instead, Manfred Mann produce a sound that is slightly smoother and a lot more soulful. A handful of originals, mostly by Mike Vickers and Mike Hugg with one Paul Jones-authored number thrown in, are scattered amid covers of songs originally from the Temptations, the Skyliners, and T-Bone Walker. If it isn't as fierce, bold, or daringly ambitious as Manfred Mann's debut long-player, Mann Made is just as much a virtuoso effort, and a surprisingly cohesive one considering that it was released immediately after Mike Vickers and Paul Jones announced their respective departures from the band.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - SOUL OF MANN (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1967) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 12 bonus

The HMV years 3
Amidst their pop/rock, blues, and folk-rock, Manfred Mann peppered their early recordings with jazzy instrumentals that faintly suggested a jazz-rock direction. Soul of Mann, never issued in the U.S., is a compilation of most of these early instrumental efforts, which originally appeared on various singles, EPs, and LPs between 1963 and 1966 (though one song, "L.S.D.," and is actually a blues-rocker with a Paul Jones vocal). Instrumentals were not the band's forte, but this collection is more interesting than you might think. No one would put Manfred Mann on the level of genuine American jazz acts like Oscar Peterson, but these cuts are executed with a surprising amount of style and wit. And Mann and his men were nothing if not eclectic, producing downright strange instrumental takes on "Satisfaction," "I Got You Babe," and "My Generation." There are straighter (but still imaginative) versions of songs by the Yardbirds and Cannonball Adderley, as well as their own originals (the bluesy stomper "Mr. Anello" is a standout). Manfred Mann fans will find this worth picking up, especially given that several of the tracks never came out in the U.S., such as the aforementioned "Mr. Anello," and all of the pop covers they did for the 1966 EP Instrumental Asylum.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - MANN MADE HITS (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1966) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 13 bonus

The HMV years 4
The first greatest-hits compilation devoted to Manfred Mann's hits, Mann Made Hits was one of the great dance albums of its era and has held up about as well as those hits, which is to say, really well. Originally released in England on EMI's HMV imprint, it opens up with the cheerful, soulful pop of "Pretty Flamingo" but quickly branches into the group's more R&B-focused work ("On No, Not My Baby," "Come Tomorrow," "There's No Living Without Your Loving"), their bluesier sides ("I'm Your Kingpin"), their folk-influenced output ("John Hardy," "With God on Our Side," "If You Gotta Go, Go Now"), and their harder jazz side ("Spirit Feel"), without missing their biggest pop hits ("Do Wah Diddy Didd," "Sha La La," "5-4-3-2-1"). This is about the best original vinyl compilation there ever was on this band, and one can also see the quandary EMI was in when they issued it -- having dropped the group in the wake of Paul Jones's departure for a solo career in 1966, presuming that the band's prospects were limited (while they held on to Jones), the front cover is labeled "Manfred Mann With Paul Jones." As it turned out, they were selling the band short, as the latter enjoyed three more years of hits, but this is still a killer farewell to the Paul Jones-era, even if it has been supplanted by numerous more comprehensive compilations since.[allmusic]

Dec 4, 2011

SIGMUND SNOPEK III - VIRGINIA WOOLF (WATER STREET 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

If the modernist novelist Virginia Woolf seems like a bizarre title subject for a rock album, it nevertheless fits the relentless peculiarity of the music on the first album from Sigmund Snopek III. Actually, this is the second album by Snopek's band the Bloomsbury People following a self-titled effort in 1970. The band plays on the entire album, but it was credited, for whatever reason, to Snopek alone. Snopek's muse and music certainly act as the impetus and grand vision for the entire project, and what an intriguingly skewed vision it is. "Virginia Woolf" is essentially one epic (novelistic, you might even say) composition broken up into song-sized portions, and even broken down further within individual songs. There is a continuity and wholeness to the entire piece, at least, that is somewhat lost when you try to listen to it as a collection of songs. The songs by themselves can occasionally sound choppy and stylistically schizophrenic -- albeit almost always riveting -- due to the ambitious amalgam. Strong intimations of rock, blues, psychedelia, and jazz mingle with classical motifs, structures, and lofty compositional techniques in a fusion that is not really rock in any conventional sense of the term (although it does often rock), but is not quite classical either. Progressive rock didn't quite exist officially at the time the album was recorded, and while Snopek's disparate composite might be seen as a prototype for that genre, it does not entirely satisfy the description the genre ultimately took on. What it can be called is avant-garde experimentation that happens to utilize recognizable pop-style melodies, rock instrumentation, and some of the deft interplay of jazz, with an ultimate freaked out, psychedelic tinge that might easily have impressed Frank Zappa had he heard the album. (That especially goes for the marching band drum solo that erupts a couple minutes into the title track.) The songs themselves essentially resist classification and don't seem to follow the authorial theme closely, but the aforementioned "Virginia Woolf," seesawing "Orange," and majestically symphonic "Blue" are standouts. Virginia Woolf is only partly successful, but it is a compelling piece of work nonetheless.[allmusic]

AFTER ALL - AFTER ALL (ATHENA 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

"Hastily put together in 1969 by a veteran quartet of Tallahassee, FL, musicians and together for only a handful of months, After All is merely a footnote in the history of late-'60s and Florida rock. Their single recorded effort, however, was a moody slice of acid-tinged progressive pop that, while perhaps not among the finest obscurities from the era, brings back the grooviness and off-the-cuff adventurousness of the decade in full color. All of the members of After All had a history playing in various rhythm & blues and jazz bands, dating back to the late '50s, performing at clubs and parties throughout the Tallahassee region. Drummer Mark Ellerbee was fresh out of Vietnam and a graduate of the Florida State School of Music when he bumped into fellow Florida State graduate and keyboardist Alan Gold, who was performing at the time in one of the area's top night club bands. With the addition of fellow scenesters bassist Bill Moon and jazz guitarist Charles Short, After All was officially born. The group envisioned creating a concept album by throwing together a variety of the era's newest styles, from acid and classical rock to structural complexity and surreal lyrics. To help with the latter, they enlisted a young local poet, Linda Hargrove, to provide the lyrics to most of the songs. The band knew a Nashville producer who was willing to record a "spec album" for them at no cost provided if they did it quickly, so they entered the studio in 1969 and recorded After All in a couple days. Following the release of the album on Athena Records, the instrumentalists returned to Florida and took up their respective careers again. Hargrove, on the other hand, remained in Nashville and carved out a fine, if under-recognized, career for herself as a country singer/songwriter and performer. ~ Stanton Swihart, All Music Guide"

JUNI & TOO MUCH - TOO MUCH (ATLANTIC 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Often touted as the Japanese Black Sabbath by blowhards and those who’ve not actually heard the music, the excellently named Too Much hailed from the large city port of Kobe, where the band members grew up sucking in all kinds of western influences from the LPs and 7” singles that came in on the boats.One of the band – guitarist Junio Nakahara – had spent the late ‘60s in the blues group The Helpful Soul, whose sole LP features in this book’s Top 50 on account of its deeply inspired 10-minutes plus plodathon ‘Peace For Fools’.However, as its audience could never have perceived The Helpful Soul as anything more than another Group Sounds act, guitarist Nakahara decided to jump on the burgeoning New Rock bandwagon by forming the more appropriately named Too Much.Nakahara’s inspiration came from the TOO MUCH concert that The Helpful Soul played with the newly-formed Blues Creation, in Kyoto at the end of February 1970.The hippy phrase ‘too much’ was already utterly cliched in the West by this time, but it was iconic and easily pronounceable to Japanese.In the process, Nakahara hooked up with hard rock singer Juni Lush, changed his own name to the more substantially New Rock-sounding Tsomu Ogawa(!), and dragged high school mates Hideya Kobayashi and Masayuki Aoki along as the rhythm section.They signed a deal with Atlantic Records in the summer of 1970, and wrote a whole slew of mindless proto-metal anthems, including the excellent ‘Grease It Out’, ‘Love Is You’ and ‘Gonna Take You’.These were duly recorded and sounded mindlessly, monolithically, perfectly suited to the lowbrow audience Too Much was aiming to please.Unfortunately, the Atlantic businessmen saw in the be-afro’d Juni Lush another potential star in the mould of Flower Travellin’ Band’s Joe Yamanaka, and they pressured the band into adding several mawkishly sentimetal ballads to the debut LP in order to widen their audience.The results were disastrous. No one needed yet another version of Bobby Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’, particularly the Nipponashville abortion that Too Much delivered. Hey, but neither did they require ‘Song For My Lady’, the arduously phlegmatic 12-minute album closer which arrived replete with megastring sections, Michel LaGrande pianos, Moody Blues flute solos and nere a six-string razor in sight.Too Much was just not enough, and they split soon after the album was released...