The original of this was the first Man I ever bought, back in the seventies. I'm not sure how many times I saw them (did I mention that I may at that stage of life have been too interested in the girls at gigs to count?), but I do know I never saw Deke Leonard, who wrote the liner notes for this new edition, with them, so suffice to say I saw them more than once in a fairly short space of time, and I remember thinking they were one of the best live acts around (I noticed that despite the aforementioned preoccupation), hence I now have loads of live records by them, many like this one recently remastered and augmented.
One of the novelties on this recording is the presence of the Gwalia Male Voice Choir. As the MC here proclaims, the choir first appeared with Man at an Oval gig shortly before the Roundhouse one captured on Back Into The Future, and their picture appeared in the Melody Maker of the time, them suited and booted with their white shirts and bow ties. It always occurred to me that surely this noble, fine-voiced ensemble did not go to the trouble of coming up from the valleys and dressing in their Sunday best just to sing a single rugby song, Sospan Fach (which I believe is about a Small Saucepan, and is misspelt on the cover of this release), and lala in the background of C'Mon, albeit that they convert a good passage into a classic one in doing so.
Still that's all we get here, which is a shame.
Never mind though. What Esoteric have done here is, even without any additional GMVC material, a real treat, finally releasing, apparently, the Roundhouse gig in its entirety, and we not only get some additional tracks, we also hear the old ones differently, with some introductory guitar picking preceding the previously familiar opening of C'Mon, a much more prominent organ mix, and some vocals on Spunk Rock which must have been expunged from the original release. Isn't that what a release like this one is all about, after all? I just wish they'd done the same with Maximum Darkness, which I thought was a wasted opportunity.
The new live tracks are two from the studio album of Back Into The Future, which have an added vitality played live, and two from the previous studio release, Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day, including their notorious standby, Bananas, of which I have five versions, each different from the other. Together with this track, C'Mon and Spunk Rock are the essence of Man live, with plenty of wide open space to allow the jazz/funk/rock/blues/country influences to all come out and merge, and captured here are the best of the best.
So, what's Roy got to do with this? Roy was my roomie at college, and when we first met, day one of year one, we were wearing identical Man badges, and I swear the only reason he tolerated my bad attitude and even worse habits was because when all else failed we could both get all rapturous about Micky Jones's Gibson SG over a pint in The Dive. But unlike me, Roy had seen Man with Deke Leonard, and he sang Deke's praises, so that's the reason I forgive the choice of an "outsider" to write the liner notes.
And there's plenty to forgive, as most of the story is about him, even though he's not on the record, and the liners don't even manage to inform us who plays on the record.
(Using what little there is here and the notes from the original CD I managed to work out that the personnel are Phil Ryan on keyboards and vocals, Will Youatt on bass, Terry Williams drums, "Tweke" Lewis on guitar and the incomparable Micky Jones - for me always the face of Man - also on guitar. If I got that wrong, please let me know!)
But where it counts, in the music, this is one of the best rock rethinks I've come across, a worthy tribute to Man, and one I trust Roy, Manfan numero uno, also has in his collection.