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(105:32 2CD, Esoteric Recordings)
TRACK LIST: Disc 1 - "Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics" 1. Taking the Easy Way Out Again 4:22 2. The Thunder & Lightning Kid 5:17 3. California Silks & Satins 4:40 4. Four Day Louise 6:02 5. Intro 0:44 6. Kerosene 6:29 7. Scotch Corner 9:04 8. Exit 1:13 9. Taking the Easy Way Out Single Version 3:19 Disc 2 - "Live at the Whiskey a Go-Go" 1. American Mother 13:06 2. 7171-551 10:56 3. A Hard Way to Live 3:01 4. Romain 17:39 5. Bananas 19:40 LINEUP: Micky Jones – guitar; vocals Deke Leonard – guitars; piano; vocals Malcolm Morley – keyboards; vocals Terry Williams – drums; vocals Ken Whaley - bass
Prolusion. Formed in 1968, Welsh band MAN is one of the semi-legendary bands of the late sixties and early '70s. At the time they were a hard touring act, known for being excellent live, and they gathered a large cult following. Many thought and hoped they would break through internationally, and their 1974 release "Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics" was the album their fans had the highest hopes for. And although it was a popular release, international success eluded these hard working Welsh rockers. The band broke up in 1976, but seven years later they reformed, and have been active since. "Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics" was re-released by Esoteric Recordings in 2007.
Analysis. For people unfamiliar with this band and this specific release, the opening numbers on this album may come across as rather surprising. For a band categorized as belonging to the psychedelic / space rock category of progressive, the first two compositions, Taking the Easy Way Out Again and The Thunder & Lightning Kid, with their country-flavored explorations will undoubtedly come across as out of place. These two are good tunes, with a melodic solo guitar theme underscored by clean guitar licks and keyboards in the verse, and with groovy choruses of a kind many bands created effortlessly in the '70s. The third track, California Silks & Satins, although having some slight folk influence, is first and foremost a ballad with some nice vocal harmonies, a strong tune but not something most would associate with progressive rock. The rest of the album reveals to a greater extent why Man was seen as a progressive act, though. Four Day Louise is a nice little number, with a strong guitar theme as a red thread throughout the song, and clever psychedelic guitar licks added where appropriate. The following four songs are really parts of a whole, starting out with a brief atmospheric theme with distorted guitars, keyboard textures and acoustic guitars on Intro, followed by the mellow Kerosene where keyboards and guitar takes turns in adding psychedelic tinges to this laidback composition. Scotch Corner is a more upbeat number, with folk influences shining through, skillful vocal harmonies in the chorus and lots of trip-inducing guitar licks and soloing throughout. The tune then goes straight into the closing appropriately named number Exit, which is more of an atmospheric piece with similarities to the track that kicked off this 4-part epic. To raise interest in this release, Esoteric Recordings has added lots of bonus material here. The single version of Taking the Easy Way Out ends the first CD, while the second CD consists of bonus tracks from start to finish – previously unreleased live recordings, all taken at “The Whiskey a Go-Go” in March 1974. This is a mono recording though, and will probably mainly be of interest to established fans of this outfit.
Conclusion. This recording is well worth adding to your collection if psychedelic '70s rock is to your liking. There are no real flaws here, unless you really hate the laid back country-rock style explored on the opening tracks. It's a solid release where all songs have high quality, but where the needed killer track failed to materialize. Its sound quality is well-preserved, courtesy of producer Roy Thomas Baker (also Queen, Ozzy Osbourne and – too many other famous artists to list here).
OMB: May 4, 2008
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