Through an endless string of personnel shifts in the early to mid-Seventies, the Welsh band Man grafted progressive elements onto their earthy pub-rock roots that, combined with their penchant for extended improvisation, inspired rabid devotion in their fans. The loyalty of that following has led to extensive web resources devoted to the group and now, the expansive archiving of their recorded catalog through the Cherry Red imprint of Britain’s Esoteric Records. The CD reissue packaging is full of photos and memorabilia that, along with the good-humored liner notes, ultimately preserve an image of Man, whoever they were at any given time (and they remain active to this day), as a band equally full of charm and chops.

Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day (Cherry Red) ***1/2:

The pinnacles of the Man discography include work done both with and without perpetual prodigal son Deke Leonard. Containing the goofy improvisational vehicle “Bananas” as well as the other primary warhorse of the band’s repertoire “C’Mon,” Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day finds vocals and keyboards of equal prominence to Mickey Jones’ guitar in the sound of the group. The well-wrought combination renders the sound bright, inviting and so complete in its original track sequence it makes the bonus tracks completely redundant.

Back Into The Future
(Cherry Red) ***1/2
Originally a double vinyl lp in 1973, this reissue consists of three cd’s, two of which are devoted to concert recordings in addition to those on the initial issue. The extra ninety-minutes plus simultaneously expands and preserves the lush soulful sound of Man as captured in the accompanying studio recordings such as “Don’t Go Away.“ while the appearance of a Welsh choir on stage with the band lends a majesty to which the group was not naturally inclined.

Rhinos Winos and Lunatics
(Cherry Red)****:
 The previous studio recordings reaffirmed Man’s discipline in the studio and when guitarist/singer/songwriter Leonard rejoined the group to restore a sleek guitar sound, Rhinos Winos and Lunatics proved how astute they had become in their writing and arranging as well. No doubt the presence of Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker had something to do with the outcome, but the fact is the extra disc of this reissue, containing a complete California show from the US tour supporting the album, carries the same impact (and is further distinguished by the inclusion of an otherwise unrecorded song written by then keyboardist Malcolm Morley, the atmospheric “American Mother”).

Maximum Darkness (Cherry Red): ***

Rolling Stones sideman Jim Horn had became a member of Man for that evening, his saxophone and flute more smoothly incorporated into the sound of the quintet at this time than the guitar of John Cippolina on the live album recorded a year later in London. On the original Maximum Darkness tracks, the Quicksilver Messenger Service founding member and guitarist sounds to interrupt the well-defined Leonard/Jones guitar interplay, but the bonus cuts, in particular an epic take of “C’Mon,” make this expanded cd worth having.

Slow Motion (Cherry Red) ***:
Similarly, over a half-dozen live tracks from the period surrounding the studio recording of Slow Motion prove more balanced listening on cd than the vinyl release of 1974. Emphasis on composition and extensive use of an orchestra on a number of selections including “Grasshopper” and "Rainbow Eyes,” reduce the sense of Man as an organic unit and the same is true on the rockers like “You Don’t Like Us:” perhaps the quartet should’ve done the entire album with strings? Cherry Red’s astute inclusion of the fiery concert tracks provides an earthy contrast to the ambitious studio work.

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