MAN-CALL DOWN THE MOON.
MAN-CALL DOWN THE MOON.
When Man split-up in 1976, Deke Leonard was asked whether Man would ever reform. Deke was clear about that. He said that Man “would never, ever, be one of those bands who reformed in a futile attempt to recapture past glories.” For fans of Man, that looked like the end of the road for one of Britain’s best loved and most talented bands.
Man had been formed in 1968, out of the ashes of Welsh rock harmony band The Bystanders. The newly formed Man wanted to change direction musically. So, their music headed in the direction of psychedelia and the West Coast sound. As music changed, so did Man.
They were a musical chameleon, whose music constantly changed. From psychedelia and the West Coast sound, Man toyed with progressive rock. Extended jams peppered their sets as Man became one of Britain’s biggest bands. However, the constant touring took its toll.
By 1976, Man decided to call it a day. For the past eight years, Man had worked almost nonstop. They recorded an album, toured the album and did it all again. Despite the commercial success and critical acclaim that came Man’s way, something had to give.
It hadn’t all been plain sailing. 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 be 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, which will be reissued on vinyl by Let Them Eat Vinyl on 4th October 2015.
At Egg Studios, Seattle, Ron Sanchez and Man produced Call Down The Moon. Man’s rhythm section included bassist Martin Ace, guitarist Micky Jones and drummer and guitarist John Weathers. Deke Leonard played keyboards and guitar. By the end of November 1994, Call Down The Moon was finished. It would be released in 1995.
On its release in 1995, Call Down The Moon was well received. Some critics didn’t seem to appreciate the lengthy tracks. Man, it seemed, were determined to take advantage of the compact disc’s length. The album opener, Call Down The Moon, lasted a mighty nine minutes. The next six tracks lasted between four and eight minutes. The penultimate track, Drivin’ Around, is a twelve minute epic. Closing Call Down The Moon, was Burn My Workin’ Clothes, which lasts a mere three minutes. For Man’s loyal fans, Call Down The Moon was a return to the past, when lengthy jams were part and parcel of their sets. However, was the music on Call Down The Moon as good as that released during Man’s glory years?
Opening Call Down the Moon is the title-track. Glistening, shimmering guitars glide across the arrangement as the rhythm section and keyboards provide moody backdrop. Man stretch their legs before a hurt-filled vocal enters. It’s tinged with sadness and regret. Meanwhile, the rest of Man add a dramatic backdrop. This comes courtesy of stabs of keyboards, bursts of blistering guitars and a rhythm section that combine rock and blues. Later, Man also add tight harmonies. They’re the perfect foil to the vocal. After that, Man bring put to good use twenty years of experience during this fusion of blues, rock and heartbreak.
If I Were You sees Man return to a late-sixties psychedelic, West Coast sound. A choppy drumbeat, jangling piano and dreamy, lysergic vocal are combined with Deke’s guitar. There’s even what sounds like a harpsichord buried deep in the mix. The more you listen to the arrangement, the more you hear. It’s a complex and multilayered. It marches along to the beat of Man’s rhythm section. Meanwhile, some scorching guitar riffs. So are layer harmonies. They all play their part in a track that’s a homage to not just Man’s musical past, but the music that inspired Man.
Dream Away is a bluesy shuffle. It’s best described as bluesy, moody and broody. As the rhythm section add the heartbeat, a slide guitar adds to this atmospheric ballad. The arrangement almost pauses when a weary, lived in vocal enters. It’s needy as it sings: “there ain’t nothing like a woman’s touch|.” All the time, the rest of Man contribute a bluesy shuffle. Stealing the show is the slide guitar. It’s the perfect foil for a vocal that’s needy and weary.
Blackout bursts into life. Man become one. Keyboards, rhythm section and a reverberating guitar combine with Deke Leonard’s choppy, urgent vocal. Try as he may, Deke can’t quite make the lyrics work. He’s almost trying too hard. Even the rest of Man can’t make the song work. They trade guitar licks while the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Despite their best efforts, Blackout never rises above average and is a long way from classic Man.
Straight away, The Man With X Ray Eyes sounds more promising. There’s a brief nod to Chicago as keyboards take centre-stage. They’re interrupted by drums, before Man kick loose. This is much more like it. Blistering, riffing guitars and a pounding rhythm section strut their way across the arrangement. It’s one of Man’s best performances. Briefly, there’s a nod to Thin Lizzy courtesy of Man’s guitars. When the vocal enters, it’s almost tender. It carries the lyrics well, before harmonies sweep in. Meanwhile, the rest of Man are delivering a masterclass. They draw upon four decades experience, as they unleash one of their best performances on Call Down the Moon.
Gradually, chiming guitars and a pounding rhythm section join forces as Heaven and Hell unfolds. Keyboards, pounding rhythm section and riffing guitars then set the scene for the vocal. It’s mixture of power and swagger, and comes across as almost theatrical. Again, it’s a case of trying too hard. Meanwhile, stabs of dramatic, rocky guitars and keyboards are unleashed. Later, as the track metamorphosis,’ it heads in the direction of prog rock. Suddenly, the track is transformed. Man become one. Blistering guitars, pounding keyboards and a driving rhythm section join forces. Even the vocal seems to improve later. It becomes a throaty growl, as Man belatedly, recover their mojo.
Dramatic and rocky describes The Girl Is Trouble. The rhythm section provide the engine room, while bursts of machine gun guitars are unleashed. Then when the vocal enters, it’s a mixture of power and drama. It’s replaced by a guitar masterclass from Micky Jones. He lays down some of his best guitar licks on Call Down The Moon during this track. Seamlessly, his hands fly up and down the fretboard, as he dawns the role of guitar hero. Behind him Deke’s keyboards play a supporting role. To a man, Man pull out the stops on this rocky anthem.
Drivin’ Around is the longest track on Call Down The Moon. It lasts over twelve minutes and allows Man to stretch their legs musically. This is the case from the opening bars. A cymbal hisses and shimmers, before keyboards pick up the baton. After that the rest of Man make an entrance. They’re in no hurry and it takes two minutes before Micky Jones’ vocal enters. It’s a mixture of emotion, sadness, control and power. His lived-in vocal is perfect for the lyrics. It sounds as if Micky has lived, loved and survived to tell the tale. He then lays down another peerless solo. Without doubt, it’s the best solo on the album. The rest of Man are left playing a supporting role as Micky steals the show as man combine rock and blues seamlessly.
Burn My Workin’ Clothes closes Call Down the Moon. It’s a really disappointing way to end the album. Maybe Man were trying to be ironic or funny? Instead, they come across as sloppy. Man provide a bluesy backdrop for John Weathers’ mid-Atlantic vocal. He’s accompanied by slide guitar and harmonies. His vocal is distant. So much so, that it sounds as if he’s too far from the microphone. The track’s only saving grace is the slide guitar. However, even that can’t save what’s a disappointing end to Call Down the Moon.
After twelve years away from a recording studio, Man fans thought that the band would be back with a career defining album. That’s what Call Down the Moon could’ve and should’ve been. They were very wrong. Out of the nine tracks, only six at the most pass muster. The rest disappoint.
Blackout is a truly disappointing song. It’s the lyrics that let the Blackout down. Heaven and Hell is best described as a song of two parts. Part one disappoints, while part two marks a return to form from Man. However, Man saved the worst to last. That’s Burn My Workin’ Clothes. Maybe it’s an badly judged attempt at humour or irony? Ironically, things started so promisingly.
The bluesy Call Down the Moon opened the album and set the scene for If I Were You. It’s a return to the psychedelic, West Coast sound Man pioneered. After that, there’s the bluesy shuffle of Dream Away. Following the disappointing Blackout, a strutting Man return with The Man With X Ray Eyes and rocky, anthem The Girl Is Trouble. Without doubt the highlight of Call Down The Moon is Drivin’ Around, where Micky Jones steals the show. Drivin’ Around showed just what Man were capable of.
Surely, it wasn’t too much for Man to return after twelve years away from a recording studio, with nine tracks of the calibre of Drivin’ Around? If they had, then Call Down the Moon would’ve stood alongside the greatest albums Man had released. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Instead, Call Down the Moon which will be reissued on vinyl by Let Them Eat Vinyl on 4th October 2015, is best described as merely above average. Call Down the Moon is far from classic Man. If that’s what you’re looking for, then I’d suggest you’d be better buying the recently released five disc box set, Original Album Series. Unlike Call Down the Moon, the five albums in the Original Album Series box set, feature Man at their very best.
MAN-CALL DOWN THE MOON.