There are real gems in the BBC vaults and now Manfred Mann is benefiting from the
release of these wonderful "live" sessions. The BBC recorded bands in a live
context for broadcast on the Light Programme on shows such as Saturday Club. The
shows would also be released on vinyl as "Top of the Pops" with interviews, usually by Brian
Matthew, for sale to radio stations in the US and Europe. Unfortunately at the
was expensive and the BBC did not see any need to archive the sessions and so
many recordings have been lost over the years.
Manfred Mann is covered in four 2CD volumes, the first two relating to
tracks recorded during the 1960s. These are split between the Paul Jones and
Mike D'Abo line-ups.
The BBC sessions have a mix of singles, album tracks and others that appear on
these CDs only. The tracks are augmented with interviews with band members.
These are excellent as they help to place the sessions in a time context - "this
is the new single" - but they also highlight the innocence of the time. Cue a
discussion about fresh fruit salad in America! There is plenty of humour with
discussions about who was the band's leader. The humour is also evident in
tracks such as The One in the Middle and Long Hair Unsquare Dude
Called Jack, the latter featuring some amazing bass playing from Jack Bruce.
Although Manfred Mann was largely reliant on other writers for their
hit singles, the group members also wrote. Paul Jones was fairly prolific and
Look Away is a stand out track here as is
Tired of Trying, Bored With Lying, Scared of Dying. Another Jones track is the humorous
The One in the Middle which was originally written for Keith Relf but it
is well-suited to the Manfreds and to Jones in particular as they joke in one of
the interviews. Better Be Sure is an R&B track penned by Jones and it
features his amazing blues harp playing.
There are some great blues classics in this set from Watch Your Step
to I Put a Spell on You. Paul Jones provides a solo interpretation of
Parchman Farm, a song that will be familiar to those who have John
Mayall's Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton (The Beano album). However,
Manfred Mann would cover a number of different musical styles from the more
traditional jazz and blues to pure pop and even covering the Everly Brothers
and the Yardbirds. Both When Will I Be Loved and Still I'm Sad
are very different to the original versions.
The singles take on a new life when performed in this "live" context. The
second version of Sha La La from Saturday Club, in particular, is very
powerful with amazing Jack Bruce bass playing shining through. Dylan's
If You Gotta Go, Go Now also benefits greatly from being played
live, showing just how good the instrumentation is as well as Jones' voice.
The band underwent a change in its line-up during the course of these
sessions. Guitarist/saxophonist Mike Vickers left, Tom McGuinness switched to
guitar, Jack Bruce joined on bass from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers while
a brass section was added with Henry Lowther on trumpet and Lyn Dobson on tenor
sax and flute. Vickers had been discussed as temporarily absent due to writing a
film score but Mann later confirmed it was permanent. Jones' departure to become
a solo artist was alluded to later in the sessions.
Alongside the two CDs there is a booklet with excellent notes about the
sessions, highlighting what is no longer available in the archives as well as
the different personnel changes and group dynamics.
CD Release: 10 May 2019
- Look Away
- If You Gotta Go, Go Now
- Sha La La (second version)