Man : Legal Bootleg Live '99

Album Cover

This recording was taken directly from the soundboard from a couple of dates during a summer tour of Germany in 1999. Sound quality is more than adequate, and with the occasional exception, the mix is fine. Phil Ryan is absent on medical grounds, so we have a four piece here, and is notable for having a few of the older, long neglected songs, generally of the shorter variety, reintroduced; these make up the first five songs of this collection.

7171-551 used to open the set some 25 years ago, and this take is less of a tour de force than the barnstormer of a quarter of a century ago; Micky's solo is low key and subdued, while Deke sticks to wah wah pretty much throughout. It's a good opener, but the Maximum Darkness version continues to be definitive; even so, it's a very welcome return for a song many if us have been wanting to hear again for a long time.

From even further back in times comes Manillo, and is my highlight of this album. Deke takes over on keys, Martin gives a languid vocal, (a bit high in the mix), and Micky plays some beautifully sympathetic guitar. A peerless hymn to ennui, it has since proven difficult to be pushed out of the regular setlist. Hard Way To Die was a live feature during the period after the reformation, and unlike the original studio cut, it comes across as leisurely paced, and it's frustrating that Micky's solo seems to come to an end just as he's warming up.

We go back even further for Brother Arnold; clearly lacking the organ of the original, Deke's superb harmonica solo more than compensates, while the Ace/Richards rhythm section acts as an irresistable force. Daughter makes up the last of the pre split quintet, a storming all out rocker, wonderfully performed, and only slightly spoilt by Bob's drums being a little too much to the fore, and a Micky Jones solo which sounds out of place - suggesting that in the intervening decades, his technique has progressed far beyond putting a brief break into a 3 minute rocker. This theme is reinforced by Wings Of Mercury, which reminds you that none of the five earlier songs featured a Jones vocal. Of all the members of the Man band, it's MJ who has progressed and developed the most.

Many Are Called does include some interesting soloing in a song which might well have passed its sell-by date, and again the drums are too high in the mix. Spunk Rock features George Jones on guitar: the mix overall is not the best, but you do get to hear Martin Ace's MC skills. The music itself isn't a classic version, but the inclusion of Jones, father and son, means it deserves its place on the album.

It's great to hear some of this stuff that hasn't been played live for years, but the shorter pieces do tend to prove that Micky Jones really does need more space to showcase his immense guitar playing skills than the shorter songs permit. Overall playing is beyond criticism, and again Bob Richards proves he is fit to share the same stage as his elders. This is not as impressive a release as the Star Club set, and I deeply lament the absence of an official release from the CDTM tours, but it's a worthwhile CD even so.

Originally released in 2000.

Available on CD on Altrichter Music, AM 310556.

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