27 Nov 2011
Manfred Mann Chapter Three - Volume One - Obscure Classics ( Review )
Great Albums you may have missed.
Manfred Mann Chapter Three - Volume One ( 1969 )
1969 was a good year to be a successful young musician. With the majority of major English record companies forming underground labels specifically for the more adventurous counter-culture longhair market, artistic freedom was at a high. Philips established the highly collectable Vertigo label, and one of their first releases was Manfred Mann Chapter Three Volume One. Manfred Mann was of course a very well established pop group with hits like Pretty Flamingo and Do-Wah- Diddy-Diddy. Ready for a change, Mann and electric pianist / vocalist Mike Hugg dropped the rest of the band and enlisted former East of Eden bass player Steve York, drummer Craig Collinge and most importantly a five piece brass section comprised of some of the hottest young talent in the U.K at the time, and set out to explore their love of jazz.
For a band who's previous release only a year before had been a singalong cover of Bob Dylan's The Mighty Quinn, a dark, voodoo jazz-rock LP replete with Albert Ayler inspired free-jazz solos must have come as a shock to long term fans. Clearly this is not your Dad's Manfred Mann.
Along with contemporarys like Ian Carr's Nucleus and Colosseum, Mann and co. were instrumental in these formative years of the merging of jazz and progressive rock. American bands like Chicago were already working the brass rock formula, but the U.K scene was pushing the envelope a considerable distance further.
Not that the Manfred's pop hooks were gone - perhaps as a concession to older fans One Way Glass toned down the jazz elements and with it's clattering drums, insistent fuzz bass and psychedelic vocal treatments should have been a hit.
And to me what raises Chapter Three above other U.K acts of the time is the quality of the songwriting. There's no doubt that there were plenty of fine players on this fledgeling scene, but few had compositions this strong to launch from. Snakeskin Garter, One Way Glass, and Sometimes are all particularly memorable.
Mike Hugg's voice may be an acquired taste for some, but fans of the creepy juju stylings of early Dr John are in for a treat. It's a particularly good fit for their spooky half speed take on the Yardbird's Mister You're A Batter Man Than I.
Konekuf and A Study In Inaccuracy verge closer to Nucleus territory and give the brass section plenty of room to flex their improv muscles, while Where Am I Going supplies a calm, contemplative coda.
They also supplied the soundtrack for Jess Franco's psychotronic film classic Venus in Furs - a great headtrip of a score which needs to see release, as well as Chapter Three Volume Two and part of a third album before they folded leading to the formation of Manfred Mann's Earth Band who produced some interesting progressive rock ( notably Solar Fire ) in a more Pink Floydish style before being back in the charts with their cover of Bruce Springsteen's Blinded By The Light.