Man : Back Into The Future

Album Cover

A double album, half studio based, half recorded live. As ever with Man, the lineup continued to change just as the real big time beckoned; at this point, Clive John had gone, to be replaced (for part of the release) by Tweke Lewis.

It starts off with Dad's Bag, a lousy pun, but a quirky time signature, which makes it, to me anyway, one of Man's more musically ambitious works; it never becomes overly serious, and is perhaps the album's most balanced piece. Just For You kicks off with a keyboard driven section which is maybe trying a bit too hard, and horror of horrors, almost edges into jazz territory. Synth and clavinet continue to push it along, and I can't help thinking it might have been better left as an instrumental, as the vocals don't really add much. Still, Never Say Nups is also pretty close to being an instrumental, so the band were probably wise not to go too far down a vocal free avenue.

The title track I take as a fairly weak song, one of those which sound like it was put together at the last minute to fill the album up; odd that it was featured in the live set for a time after the band reformed. Who knows, maybe I'm being cynical, but is it possible the whole point of the song was to give the band an excuse to dress up for the cover? Don't go Away, with accoustic guitar, piano and wistful vocals pushes the hippy ethic a bit too close to being twee for my liking. Ain't Their Fight is closer to the style of Be Good To Yourself than the rest of the album, with restrained organ and wah wah making the pace, pushed along by the ever impeccable drumming of Terry Williams. As already mentioned, Never Say Nups is almost an instrumental. The story behind the song's title is well documented elsewhere, so I won't bore you with it here. This is my favourite from the album, with excellent guitar and keyboard interplay, and a beautiful pastoral section after the vocal which leads into some aggressive guitar; again, the drumming is flawless.

On to the live half...

Certain bands around this time were getting involved with orchestras and the like, so the use of a male voice choir was vaguely fashionable as well as being a clear reference back to their Celtic roots from the valleys. While the choral input works very well on C'mon, maybe, just maybe, allowing the boyos their own spot on the record was mildly indulgent - surely the gig had real Man material that could have been kept for posterity? Still, there was still enough space for 19 minutes of C'mon, all ethereal synths and cymbals before the main riff develops, and the familiar standard gets a good workout. Though Tweke's stay in Man was a short one, there is some excellent guitar playing here, and as I've said, the addition of the choir also help to make this something more than just another version, and Micky Jones' wailing against his compatriots is truly haunting.

The Jam Up closer is a pretty easily paced piece which meanders around harmlessly enough before getting into the main Spunk Rock riff well into the second half. All the playing is crisp and accurate, though it lacks the cutting inspiration found in other versions of this Man classic.

Originally issued in September 1973

Available on BGO Records, BGO CD 211

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