“Hits, Jazz and Blues Tour”
Regent Centre, Christchurch, Dorset
Thursday 7th April 2016
Paul Jones – vocals, harmonica, percussion
Tom McGuiness – guitars, mandolin, vocals
Mike Hugg – keyboards
Simon Currie- saxophones, flute
Marcus Cliffe – bass guitar, vocals
Rob Townsend – drums
The One In The Middle
Sha La La
Malt & Barley Blues (Tom McGuiness lead vocal)
Watermelon Man / I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy / Watermelon Man
Traviata (Mike Hugg & Simon Currie only)
Just Like A Woman
That’s The Blues (Tom McGuiness lead vocal)
Oh, No, Not My Baby
Straighten Up & Fly Right
Isn’t She Lovely (Marcus Cliffe solo)
I’m Your Kingpin
Put It Where You Want It
When I’m Dead And Gone (Tom McGuiness lead vocal)
Do Wah Diddy Diddy
Harmonica solo (Paul Jones only)
Do Wah Diddy Diddy
If You Gotta Go Go Now
The Manfreds have advantages over other Silver Sixties bands. The original Manfred Mann group ceased. It didn’t tail off. Paul Jones left in late 1966. Then the Mike d’Abo era ended cleanly in 1969. Manfred Mann went off to form Chapter Three then Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Tom McGuinness formed McGuiness-Flint, and Mike Hugg went on to film and advertising work … which is much sought after by record collectors, incidentally. There was no 70s “tailing off” like The Searchers or The Hollies, with singles (however good they might have been) which are not as well-known as the 60s ones. Pretty much all The Manfred Mann 60s singles are well-known.
This was the best I’ve seen them. Paul Jones and Tom McGuiness were in perfect voice. I thought back to the Sixties, when I’d say Eric Burdon, Mick Jagger and Paul Jones were all three around the same status as lead singers in bands. Paul Jones made the switch to film acting with Privilege and never regained the position compared to Burdon and Jagger. He was always in the same league. We are more than FIFTY years on, and Paul Jones looks great and sounds just like he used to. You can’t say that of any of his peers, except perhaps Tom Jones and Van Morrison, and then their voices have deepened and changed a great deal, though they haven’t lost power. Paul Jones hasn’t even started to think remotely about losing power.
The stage act, particularly the humour and audience interaction has improved too. He is always engaging and funny. The self-deprecating humour leaps out in the choice of the very first song, The One In The Middle, where the lead singer looks so sweet. Sha La La is one of those girl group songs which Manfred Mann could make their own … an ability matched only by The Beatles with girl group material.
John Hardy was announced as a B-side, and it was the flip of Sha La La so it was like being back with my Dansette to hear them flipped over one after the other. John Hardy as a folk standard was atypical of their repertoire in the 60s, being associated with The Carter Family, Joan Baez and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot rather than Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters. A rocked up treatment that points the way to traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die.
The focus switched to Tom McGuinnes for Malt and Barley Blues, a Gallagher & Lyle song which McGuiness-Flint propelled to #5 in 1971.
I love the vocal version of Watermelon Man, like so many great Manfred Mann racks, an EP track. The combination of Paul Jones’ harmonica and Simon Currie’s sax blends and sounds like an entire horn section. They can get the rhythm too. They segue into Paul Jones’s solo hit I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy then roll back into Watermelon Man seamlessly.
At this point, three left the stage, leaving Mike Hugg and Simon Currie to duet on Traviata from their duo album Sanctuary. It’s hauntingly beautiful, a New Age masterpiece.
Just like A Woman … what can I say? Who is doing Dylan this well nowadays? Bob isn’t, certainly. But Manfred Mann were always superb Dylan interpreters. As with last time, I notice that they make no effort to reproduce their erstwhile leader’s organ part. Mike Hugg maintains an electric piano sound, and in most songs the organ part is picked up by Simon Currie’s saxophone. Fascinating, because back in the day, organ was often used as a substitute horn section!
That’s The Blues is Tom McGuiness lead vocal, sharing vocals with Marcus Cliffe who produced his album. As Tom McGuiness says, they played the instruments between them. A song where one should listen to the lyric too.
Paul Jones introduced Oh, No Not My Baby by saying that so many bands made their old hits unrecognisable, but the Manfreds didn’t do that … with he exception of this long jazzy version of the Maxine Browne American hit. Another girl group sound triumph for Manfred Mann in doing the British cover (UK #11).
Paul Jones is brilliant at showing off the merchandise in a humorous way, and held up his 2015 solo CD Suddenly I Like It. The song he chose was a Nat King Cole 1943 song, Straighten Up and Fly Right.
Then I saw Tom McGuiness picking up his acoustic guitar, and as the chords started my scalp prickled (having a shaven head there are no hairs to stand on end.) Pretty Flamingo was sheer unadulterated joy. It also swept me into a wave of nostalgia. Fifty years ago almost exactly (21 April 1966) it entered the chart and steamrollered its way to #1. Here we were at the Regent Centre in Christchurch High Street. In April 1966, this song was my teenage girlfriend’s absolute favourite song. She lived 15 miles out in the country, and halfway there the bus stopped in Christchurch, almost opposite this theatre. Until Paul Jones started singing it, I had totally forgotten that I used to stay with her on the bus from Bournemouth to Christchurch, for a precious extra twenty minutes. I’d get off the bus right there, and then hitch-hike the eight miles home. Or on a couple of occasions walked it. With that song playing in my head all the way. The thought of listening to three of the same guys performing it fifty years on in this street would have been inconceivable.
After the interval we got the song that was commissioned as the Ready Steady Go opening theme, 5-4-3-2-1. Appropriate.
The Five Faces of Mann is one of the definitive albums of the British R&B boom, as essential as the first two Rolling Stones albums, or the Animals. It opened with Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning, the first track on that album, taken at flat out power here. Tom McGuinness’s guitar work was outstanding on his solo. I saw them perform this at the Disques-A-GoGo in Bournemouth when the record was new. I clearly recall their Southern Television (rather academic) blues show where they played it.
Isn’t She lovely is the Stevie Wonder number, performed here by Marcus Cliffe alone on bass guitar. The others left the stage. He got the melody, the rhythm, the bass line. A tour de force of bass guitar playing which drew huge applause.
They announced I’m Your Kingpin as another B-side. It was on the back of Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble, probably too much of an effort to replicate the success of 5-4-3-2-1 and I preferred I’m Your Kingpin, and I guess they did too.
Señor Blues by Horace Silver came next (and they mentioned Taj Mahal’s version). Again it was the harmonica / sax blend that stood out.
The Crusaders Put It Where You Want It (written by Joe Sample) with the hypnotic guitar and piano line allowing everyone time and space to solo.
Come Tomorrow was atypical of their output too, a big ballad for Paul Jones. He can hit every high note. Nary a waver anywhere. It was a major hit (UK #4) which perhaps prompted him t take his solo career more in that direction. In retrospect, erroneously as the band continued with replacement Mike d’Abo and continued rolling in the hits
Tom McGuiness’s When I’m Dead and Gone was, as pointed out, an even bigger UK hit in 1970 for McGuinness-Flint (UK #2), again sung perfectly and jauntily with Marcus Cliffe.
Mighty Quinn has long been a sing-a-long (and postdates the Paul Jones era – not that you’d notice). They had virtually first pick of the Basement Tapes acetate. It fixed, and to me it remains the favourite version (apologies to Bob Dylan, The Band, The Byrds et al). On one verse Paul Jones and Tom McGuiness sang it in unison, which worked, and I hadn’t seen it before.
Do Wah Diddy Diddy is an even longer singalong, audience participation number, orchestrated by Paul Jones. OK, it’s made for it. It must have been ten minutes long, then everyone crept off stage to allow Paul Jones a long, energetic, wide-ranging Harmonica Solo. There were several musical quotes in there. I particularly noticed Stone Fox Chase, theme to The Old Grey Whistle Test Then the band returned, went into Do Wah Diddy Diddy again and drew an instant standing ovation.
If You Gotta Go, Go Now was the encore. He did most of it before the audience joined in, but by now with such huge and catchy songs (two of them Dylan) at that point such a happy crowd will sing along whether you want them to or not. Marcus Cliffe and Tom McGuiness took a verse each as well,
A great evening.
SEE MY LONG GENERAL ARTICLE ON MANFRED MANN
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