There aren’t many bands whose recording career spans six decades. That’s the case with Man. Founded in 1968, Man released their debut album Revelation, a year later in 1969. Since then, the Welsh rockers have enjoyed a long, prolific and sometimes, controversial career.
Since their 1969 debut, Man have released over twenty albums and more live albums than they care to remember. However, it’s not always been smooth sailing for Man.
Far from it. There had been controversy and changes in Man’s lineup. When touring Germany, Man were suspected of being terrorists and found themselves in a German jail. On a tour of Belgium, Man were jailed for drugs offences. Then there’s numerous changes in Man lineup.
In 1976, Man had were touring the US when Ryan Williams and John MacKenzie announced they were leaving the group. This was the beginning of the end. Arguments had been rife within the group. The atmosphere during the tour was terrible. This wasn’t conducive to making music. So, the rest of Man decided the band would split-up. There was a problem though.
Man had just signed to MCA Records and owed them three albums. Nobody wanted to record even one album. None of the members of Man wanted to contribute any songs. Cover versions were considered. However, Man this idea was soon forgotten about. Man’s attempts at cover versions floundered. It seemed that Man as a group were finished. So, Man agreed to release a live farewell album, All’s Well That Ends Well. It was recorded at the Roundhouse, London between 11th and 13th December 1976. Three days later, on 16th December 1976, Man announced they were splitting up.
After Man announced All’s Well That Ends Well was their finale, everyone thought that was the last we’d heard from Man. Especially, after all the arguments, backbiting and changes in lineup. That looked like being the case.
Then in 1983, Man announced they were reforming. Those in the know wondered how long the Man reunion would last?
The newly reformed Man headed into the studio and recorded Friday The 13th. This was their first album since 1976s The Welsh Connection. It was well received. Man’s loyal fans awaited a followup. They waited nine long years.
1992 saw Man released what was their tenth studio album, The Twang Dynasty. It had been recored back in 1983. However, Man fell out with producer Peter Kerr. He was also the promoter of the album. So The Twang Dynasty wasn’t released until November 1992.
Onlookers said that this could only happen to Man. They’d shot themselves in the foot again. Hopefully, this would the last time.
Two years later, in November 1994, Man entered the studio for the first time since 1983. Man had written nine tracks which would become Call Down The Moon. When Call Down The Moon was released in 1995, it was a disappointing album, spoiled by a few average tracks. For Man’s fans, Call Down The Moon hadn’t been worth the twelve years wait. However,at least Man were back in business. There was, at least, the opportunity for redemption.
In the past twenty years, Man have been making up for the twelve years they lost during the eighties and nineties. Two years after the release of Call Down The Moon in 1995, Man released To Live For To Die in 1997. After this, Man didn’t release another album until a new millennia dawned.
This was Endangered Species, which was released in 2000. After Endangered Species, six years passed before Man released another studio album. However, there seemed to be no shortage of live albums. Then in 2006, after six years away, Man released Diamonds and Coal. Another three years passed before Man released what was one of their most controversial albums, Kingdom Of Noise.
Released in 2009, Kingdom Of Noise divided the opinion of Man’s loyal fans. Many loathed Kingdom Of Noise, calling it the most disappointing albums in Man’s career. Some went as far to suggest that Man called it a day. Other Man devotees suggested people give Kingdom Of Noise a chance. They were in the minority. Man’s career seemed to at a crossroads. Maybe it was time for them to call it a day, allowing their long standing fans to remember Man’s glory days, when they were capable of releasing genre classics like Rhinos, Winos, And Lunatics?
That looked like the case. In the six years since Man released Kingdom Of Noise, the only music Man have released were two live albums in 2011, Live At The Marquee 13th May 1983 in 2011 and The Live Adventures Of Man. That however, was the last music Man released. Many of Man’s fans thought maybe, Man had decided to call time on their six decade career?
That proved not to be the case. Four years later, and Man returned on 23rd February 2015 with their latest studio album Reanimated Memories, which was released by Esoteric Antenna.
Over the last forty-seven years, the lineup of Man has changed many times. Since Kingdom Of Noise, Man’s lineup has featured Josh Ace, James Beck, Martin Ace, Rene Robrahn and Phil Ryan. Reanimated Memories is the second album they’ve recorded. However, Martin Ace is the veteran in Man’s current lineup. He made his recording debut on Maximum Darkness, which was released nearly forty years ago in September 1975. Martin plays an important role in Reanimated Memories.
For Reanimated Memories, Martin Ace penned four of the eleven tracks, including The Ballad Of Billy Lee, One More Ride On The Waltzers, Got No Monet In My Pocket and All The Birds. Josh Ace wrote No Solution, We Know, God Delusion and Events of Yesterday. Phil Ryan cowrote Ordinary Man and wrote In Time and Nothing Fails Like Success. These eleven tracks were recorded and mixed at The Cowshed, London during a fourteen day period in November 2014.
At The Cowshed, Martin Ace played bass and added vocals. Martin is joined in the rhythm section by drummer Rene Robrahn and guitarist James Beck and Josh Ace. Phil Ryan plays organ and piano. Adding pedal steel on three tracks, is veteran session musician B.J. Cole. Once Reanimated Memories was completed in November 2014, Man’s latest album was ready for release in late February 2015. Would Reanimated Memories see Man redeem themselves in the eye of their fans?
The Ballad of Billy Lee opens Reanimated Memories. A strummed guitars sets the scene. Before long, Man heads take the track in the direction of country rock. Guitars are key to this country sound. Especially the weeping pedal steel. The vocal is best described as faux country in style. Along with deliberate stabs of piano, he add an element of drama to this song about the American Civil War. Soon,the arrangement builds. It’s time for the rhythm section to earn their money. As the bass powers the arrangement along, flourishes of piano, weeping guitars and accompany Martin during this cinematic sounding, dramatic country track.
Blistering guitars, bursts of thunderous drums and washes of Hammond organ open No Solution. Straight away, you’re hooked by the uber rocky sound. Then when the vocal enters, it’s apparent that there’s been a change of vocal. It suits the track. It’s much softer, tinged with melancholy and despair. Meanwhile, the arrangement flows along, framing the vocal. The rest of Man take care not to overpower the vocal, or the wistful harmonies. When they drop out, it’s time for Man’s rhythm section and blistering guitars to stretch their legs. From there, the two sides of Man enjoy their moment in the sun, during this hook laden, rocker.
Straight away, In Time takes on a sci-fi sound. That’s just a curveball. Scrabbled guitars are joined by Man’s powerhouse of rhythm section. They’re augmented by prog-rock pianos. When the piano drops out, a deliberate, dramatic vocal enters. It’s joined by thundering drums, flourishes of piano and harmonies. By now, it’s obvious Man are trying recapture their seventies glory days with this classy slice of prog-rock. Especially, from the four minute mark. For the next three minutes, there’s a nod to Pink Floyd before Man drive what’s one of Reanimated Memories to its dramatic crescendo.
It doesn’t take long to realise that One More Ride On The Waltzers is another of Reanimated Memories’ highlights. From the opening bars, the track takes on a cinematic sound. Man’s rhythm section, searing guitars and a Hammond organ provide a backdrop for a wistful vocal, that paints pictures of first love and heartbreak. As memories come flooding back, Martin hopefully sings: “One More Ride On The Waltzers with you.” The result is an irresistible, radio friendly song with hooks to spare.
The introduction to Ordinary Man grabs your attention. Harmonies sing: “Ordinary Man, Ordinary Man.” This sets the scene for a shuffling arrangement, where the rhythm section, grinding guitars and bursts of piano provide the backdrop for an emotive vocal. It tells the story of an Ordinary Man, full of sadness, dreams and hopes, hopes for the future. Then when the vocal drops out, it’s time for Man to showboat. Stars of the show are the guitars and piano. Man seem to roll back the years. It’s a tantalising reminder of what Man in their prime were capable of.
Slowly, and dramatically the Jason Ace penned God Delusion unfolds. Drums, slowly and ominously, set the scene for strummed guitars, bass and piano. Jason’s vocal is slow, emotive and filled with frustration. He brings to life the lyrics, whose most telling line is: “people still die in the name of a spirit in the sky.” Frustration and anger fills his vocal. When it drops out, Man unleash a slow, moody, bluesy, jam. It’s proves to be the icing on the cake.
Washes of guitar add an atmospheric hue to Got No Money in My Pocket. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards provide a slow, moody backdrop. This suits the despairing, needy vocal. When the vocal drops out, briefly, Man jam. Later, they get the opportunity to stretch their legs on a track where elements of blues, rock and country unite. While this is where Man shine, Got No Money in My Pocket fails to match the quality of other tracks. Indeed, it just manages to rise above filler.
Phil Ryan wrote Nothing Fails Like Success. Scorching, searing guitars and Man’s driving rhythm provide the backdrop for a gravelly vocal. It’s full of irony. Especially when delivering the lyrics: “Nothing Fails Like Success.” Accompanied by harmonies, Man tell the truth about the cost of fame. The lyrics are almost spat out. Especially: “No money some distress…lied about in the press…friends we lost.” Although these lyrics tell the story about the cost of fame, Man show no sign of calling it a day. Maybe for Man, a taste of fame was the most addictive drug of all?
Stabs of guitars and Man’s rhythm section set the scene on Events of Yesterday. Then Jason’s vocal enters. It’s wistful, full of hurt and longing. Bursts of guitar and piano join the Hammond organ in powering the arrangement along on this tale of love lost. At the bridge, momentum is lost when the vocal becomes too slow. However, Man manage to redeem themselves, fusing rocky licks and a driving rhythm section.
All the Birds, a ballad, that promises much, closes Reanimated Memories. Flourishes of elegiac piano and crystalline are joined by thunderous drums. Straight away, it’s obvious the drums are far too loud. The drums overpower the arrangement, including Martin’s pensive vocal. That’s a pity, as he’s saved one of his best until last. Along with the piano and guitars, washes of Hammond add an atmospheric sound. Later, when the vocal drops out, Man jam for one last time. As the vocal returns, thankfully, the drums don’t seem as loud. Along with the rest of Man they provide a melancholy backdrop for the vocal on this beautiful paean.
Forty-seven years after they formed in 1968, Man return with Reanimated Memories. It’s an eclectic offering from the Welsh rockers. There’s blues, country, country rock, prog rock and classic rock. Sometimes, Man show glimpses of their seventies heyday. That however, was a long time ago.
A lot has happened since then. This includes controversy and changes in Man’s lineup. When touring Germany, Man were suspected of being terrorists and found themselves in a German jail. Then on a tour of Belgium, Man were jailed for drugs offences. Since then, Man’s lineup has evolved. Martin Ace is the longest serving member of Man. He’s first appeared on Maximum Darkness,which was released nearly forty years ago in September 1975. However, like the rest of Man, Martin Ace wasn’t one of the founding members.
No. Man’s current lineup features Josh Ace, James Beck, Martin Ace, Rene Robrahn and Phil Ryan. Reanimated Memories is the second album they’ve recorded. They made their debut on Kingdom Of Noise, which for many of Man’s loyal fans, was a low point in their recording career. This latest lineup of Man owed their fans an album. Reanimated Memories also offered Man the chance to redeem themselves.
While Man haven’t completely redeemed themselves, Reanimated Memories is a much better album than Kingdom Of Noise. Reanimated Memories is just a few songs short of allowing Man redemption. The Ballad Of Billy Lee is spoiled by the faux country vocal. No Money In My Pocket is a disappointing track, that’s best described as filler. Mostly, though, Man have produce an eclectic album featuring some quality music.
This includes No Solution, a classy slice of prog rock, while One More Ride On The Waltzers is a radio friendly song with hooks to spare. God Delusion, which is full of social comment, features some of the best lyrics on Reanimated Memories. So does Nothing Fails Like Success. The wistful Events Of Yesterday and All the Birds, a beautiful ballad, proves a perfect way to close Reanimated Memories. Only the thunderous drums take the edge of All the Birds. However, apart from that, All The Birds is one of Reanimated Memories’ highlights, of which there are quite a few,
Reanimated Memories, Man’s latest albums, sees the Welsh rockers go some way to making amends for the disappointing Kingdom Of Noise. It’s a good album, but not a great one. Just like the last Man album I reviewed, Call Down the Moon, Reanimated Memories, it’s a couple of tracks short of being a great album. Sadly, it looks increasingly likely that never again, will Man reach the dizzying heights of their early seventies heyday. However, there’s more than a few fleeting glimpse of Man’s seventies heyday on Reanimated Memories, where Man go some way to make amends for Kingdom Of Noise.