2007 Digitally Remastered Four CD Retrospective Set of the Group's Recordings for EMI from 1963-66. Manfred Mann (The Band) was Started by Jazz Musicians Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann. Jazz was Fulfilling to Play, but Didnt Pay Well, So They Decided to Change Direction and Form an Rnb Band. They Recruited Other Similarly Under-employed Jazz Players and Held Auditions for a Singer Or "shouter" as it was Described to Paul Jones who Eventually Got the Job. The Line Up was Completed by Mike Vickers and Tom Mcguiness. Jones Harmonica Gave the Group their Distinct Sound and They Soon Became One of Britains Leading Rock Bands of the 60s. They Hit the Top 10 Regularly with Hits Like "5-4-3-2-1", "do Wah Diddy Diddy", "Sha La La", "Come Tomorrow", "if You Gotta Go, Go Now" and "Pretty Flamingo". Includes Sleevenotes Written by Tom Mcguiness as Well as a Sessionography and Illustrated Discography. The Tracks Include Seven Previously Unreleased Recordings as Well as a Wealth of Rarities!
However, even on their first album, they covered songs by Howlin' Wolf and Cannonball Adderly. They would stick a few purely jazz instrumentals on their albums, and if you bought them expecting "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" you may have been disapointed.
This set has everything recorded for EMI, with a few new unreleased tracks (the session logs show many more recordings made for which no master tapes have been found). At that point, Paul Jones left the group and EMI dropped them, so they move to Fontana and hired Mike D'Abo to be their singer. (That period, not here, is well worth investigating as well, as they added a Pop-psych approach to their repertoire). In 1966 JACK BRUCE was hired as bass-player, though rarely credited on the records. (Most of his tracks appeared in America on the "Pretty Flamingo" LP.) During this time, the group added two horn players (well-known later for progressive rock/jazz appearance in groups like Soft Machine, Centipede, etc.) and they recorded an EP called "Instrumental Asylum" of jazz interpretations of several pop tunes of the day (Stones, Yardbirds, etc.) All of that is here in this chronological set. But, you still have all the pop stuff to go through, which has not aged as well. They also cut a few jazz classics like "Spirit Feel" and "Driva Man" around this time.
Jack Bruce stayed long enough to cut 4 tracks with the group on Fontana before he left to form Cream later in 1966. The period with him is the peak of the jazz recordings which float amongst all the albums made by the Manfreds. If someone were to cull just the jazz cuts into one album, or all the Jack Bruce tracks, it would make a valid compilation in its own right.
Precision playing throughout, and impeccable sound (all recorded at Abbey Road Studios with Norman Smith engineering) makes this one of the best 60's band of all time in terms of quality. Mike Hugg on drums is truly amazing, as well as his doubling on vibes! (How could the many so-called fusion groups later match THIS guy?) He also wrote "You're a Better Man Than I" for the Yardbirds during this time. Though Manfred did not record that classic, they did start an early tradition of covering Bob Dylan songs in 1965 with a blockbuster version of "With God On Our Side" and their own first released version of "If You Gotta Go, Go Now", a big hit for them in England.
So if you have a passing interest in hearing one of the most diverse and adept band of the early 60's, there is no better way to start than this collection. My ONLY complaint is 2 or 3 songs appear here in mono, though they were stereo in other releases. However, the overall mastering on this set blows away the previous CD's I've heard. I'm a big fan of Manfred Mann, and I highly recommend this boxed set.
But it';s a lot of the Manfreds, and the notes and discography are quite good. I'd certaily recommend the set. And the short version of Do Wah Diddy Diddy WAS, after all, the hit.
Once this 4-CD import found a domestic distributor, the price came down quite a bit, and I decided to take the plunge. I'm very happy that I did.
My first impression upon listening to this material was "how can this sound so good when the original recordings are over 40 years old!?"
The sound is crystal clear, with distinct, but very natural, separation. No lyric sheet is needed, as the vocals come through sharp and well-defined. The sound on all these recordings is, in a word, superb.
I don't pretend to be an expert on the completeness of the song selections here, but there are four discs, each over an hour in length - and a very well-prepared booklet with a brief history of the band and credits for each selection. I learned a lot simply going over the booklet. It would appear they've covered the EMI years fairly exhaustively.
Many cuts are previously unreleased or were only available as B-sides to vinyl singles.
There's a nice balance here between early 60's pop, R&B and blues, with more than a touch of a jazz/be-bop on some cuts (this band started out as a jazz band before getting a recording contract) to round things out.
A VERY enjoyable set - both for completists and for the fan like me, who simply wanted a good representation of early Manfred Mann.