A lot of people know keyboardist-bandleader Manfred Mann from his prog rock-leaning Earth Band days of the ’70s, and especially for his interpretation of early Bruce Springsteen songs “Blinded By the Light,” “For You” and “Spirits In the Night.”
But Mann’s first band, called simply “Manfred Mann,” was one of the highlights on the British Invasion, stomping out some definitive ’60s pop-rock. Their version of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is one of the great pop rock songs of the ’60s. Mann’s charging organ fires up the energy and Mike Hugg’s maracas and tympani rolls force a sideward twist to the forward motion. Best are Paul Jones’ impassioned vocals lending essentially goofy lyrics weight. To this day, who can doubt that she:
And I nearly lost my mind”?
“5-4-3-2-1” is a double-time blues rock romp, a la the Bluesbreakers, with Mann’s organ and Jones’ harmonica in the fore. “Sha-La-La” is more profound nonsense, “The Mighty Quinn” (a Bob Dylan song about an Eskimo) was another smash, and “Pretty Flamingo” is sublime.
Jones’ vigorously strummed acoustic guitar sets up his best vocal on a timeless, leaping melody. Charmingly local in a ’60s pop world full of universals (“On our block/All of the guys/Call her flamingo”), the flamingo/girl is exotic, unobtainable wildlife. Though daunted, Jones clings to a blissful vision:
“Some sweet day
I’ll make her mine, Pretty flamingo
And every guy will envy me
‘Cause paradise is where I’ll be”
and where we are as long as the song plays.
The Complete Greatest Hits package below includes the best of both Manfred Mann and the Earth Band.