The Welsh band, Man, is certainly one of the best bands you’ve never heard in your life. Much like their Welsh peer band, Budgie, Man has managed to have a loyal cult following since the ‘70’s, but just never was able to break through to major radio hit success like their fellow Welsh band, Badfinger. But then again, if you’re familiar with the fate of Badfinger (suicides of 2 of their primary members), MAN is probably not envious. In fact, Man was a band that seemed to embrace the underground spirit of their music.
Radio hits or not, they certainly can hold their heads high, as they’ve left behind some of the most interesting rock music of the 70s… and that’s saying a lot! Although mostly remembered as a progressive rock band, Man did progressive in a way that was completely original from most other progressive bands, blending together the best elements of psychedlia, blues, vocal harmony, and West-coast style jam-driven rock and roll. Very much in line with such opinion-polarizing counter-culture bands The Grateful Dead and even Phish, Man were praised for their live shows, which were never the same twice. But Man’s jamming was less loose and laid-back than the Dead and a bit more gritty, thereby actually sharing more an affinity with Phish, especially in their use of the occasional silly lyric…“I like to eat bananas, because they got no bones… I like marijuana, ‘cause it gets me stoned” (from their live show staple, "Bananas").
But comparisons with those bands are more in the way that fans felt about their live shows. And I would be remiss to make any further comparisons, especially without mentioning the influence of the heavily touring, dual-lead guitar West-coast band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, one of the most well-respected live acts of the late 60s. Not only that, Quicksilver guitarist John Cipollina even joined Man in 1975 and can be heard on Man’s 1975 live album Maximum Darkness, but they never recorded a studio album with “Chippo”. But just a year later in 1976, after 8 years of intense gigging, we would see the end of the golden era of Man as they called it quits, as if they could foreshadow the future musical landscape turning to punk and disco… a landscape that probably would not have been a friendly one for such a tried and true progressive rock band. Remember, this is the era that chewed up and spit out Yes, the most popular prog rock band of all time. And by this time, the band had weathered many personnel changes and the instable membership of one of two primary singer/guitarists, Deke Leonard.
So where to start with such a band that has been completely off your radar all your life? Well, MVD Entertainment has a unique Man retrospective, Sixty Minutes With Man, that will definitely give you an excellent introduction to the band. One of the coolest things about this compilation is that the majority of the songs are vinyl-sourced! And they sound amazing! It’s like they’re meant to be heard that way. And if you thought you could never sit through a 15-minute song, try resisting the live cut, “Bananas”. Packed with favorites like “C’mon” (also live), “Romain”, and “Many Are Called But Few Get Up”, the only downside with this compilation is that it’s not long enough. So if it leaves you wanting more, then you can start checking out their original releases from the late 60s and early 70s.
Then when you become a true Man fan, you’ll be chomping at the bit to see Man, Live at The Roundhouse, which documents Man’s farewell show in 1976. It’s sort of a Last Waltz meets This Is Spinal Tap. There’s plenty of juicy live footage which reveals just how much fun these guys had onstage. And there are interviews with the band, the manager, and even the roadies. It’s certainly not High-Def in any way, but it is a nice intimate look at the bands final 70's run in the raw form that it was originally shot in.
So, if you’re ready to become a Man fan, take a look and listen below to “Angel Easy” on YouTube, and start checking out one of the Best Bands You’ve Never Heard In Your Life.