Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let Me Tell You 'Bout The Manfreds.....

MANFRED MANN-The One In The Middle/Watermelon Man/What Am I To Do/With God On Our Side U.K. HMV 7EG 8908 1965
You can't go wrong with Paul Jones era Manfred Mann in my book.  While I do enjoy a bit of the Mike D'Abo era stuff I find that the jazzy/harder r&b of  the Manfred's Mk.I is far more appealing in my book. This was the band's third of seven E.P.'s they did on HMV while Paul Jones was at the helm, hitting the streets in the Summer of 1965.

It kicks off with the cheeky band musical autobiography "The One In The Middle", composed by lead singer Paul Jones. It's a fully rollicking mid 60's British r&b record if ever there was one with catchy guitar licks, blues wailing harp, funky organ and Paul Jone's strong vocals, a full on party! And of course the lyrics are amusing too. The band then tackle Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" via Jon Hendrick's vocalese version, nicely accented by some sweet sax from in house multi-instrumentalist Mike Vickers.  At times Paul Jone's sounds a tad unconvincing in his efforts to vocally replicate an American black man, but I don't take it as any form on insincerity on his part.

The band on one of many "Ready Steady Go" appearances, 1965.

Side two of the E.P. opens with the soulful reading of "What Am I To Do", a track written by Phil Spector and Doc Pomus. Once again Paul Jones shines in the vocal department, crooning away soulfully and during the chorus the band show their chops beneath Manfred's atmospheric piano interspersed with some churchy organ on the solo.  Magic.  The E.P. ends with Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side".  The band had a history of recording a lot of the big D's stuff in fact their next single would be a reading of his "If You Gotta Go, Go Now".  But this tune is where it all began and kicked off the band's long standing relationship with covering Dylan tracks (it's been suggested that Mr. Zimmerman enjoyed their interpretations of his tracks, I'm still holding out for a second volume of his "Chronicles" autobiography series to see if he mentions them in any way).  The sparse and simple bass, drums, thumping piano arrangement suits the number perfectly as Paul Jones sings with soul and conviction on what is, beyond all doubt, the most poignant Dylan track ever written. Bitingly cynical yet straight and to the point, a fine anti-war statement brilliantly delivered by a top notch British r&b band, who once again, prove they can be both cheeky and serious.

All four tracks are available in a variety of places, the best and most complete being the 4 CD set "Down The Road A Piece: 1963-1966" which spans every single track they ever recorded for the HMV label.

Hear "The One In The Middle":

"Watermelon Man" on "Shindig":

Hear "What Am I To Do":

Hear "With God On Our Side":

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