Archive for the ‘AC/DC’ Category

Manfred Mann

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Listen: Ragamuffin Man / Manfred Mann

Manfred Mann may hold the record for having massive success with not two, but three different lead vocalists. It’s usually big trouble when that original lead singer is suddenly gone. A few exceptions like AC/DC, Van Halen, The Move and maybe The Small Faces come to mind. But three different ones. Let’s see, that’s a pretty short list. I can only think of The Temptations and Manfred Mann.

Their Mercury/Fontana patch with Mike D’Abo, loosely referred to as Manfred Mann Chapter II, is my favorite, but just. To be fair, I love singles from all the lineups, so it’s probably my involuntary addiction toward anything released on the Philips/Mercury/Fontana labels that swings it. Honestly, I get the shakes around their pressings, especially the promos.

The last 7″ from the Mike D’Abo era, ‘Ragamuffin Man’ has forever been tarnished with fulfilling the final contractual commitment, by then Manfred Mann himself having decided on a jazz direction and new lineup, etc, etc. But seriously, it’s just as strong as the singles preceding it: ‘Semi Detached Suburban Mr. Jones’, ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, ‘My Name Is Jack’ and ‘The Mighty Quinn’. The record is great. I still play it a ton.

Got to hand it to him, Manfred Mann could not only pick songs but had a real gift of stamping his keyboard dazzle to every single they ever made. He might even be the earliest guy to successfully bring synths and Moog to mainstream radio.

And for the record, THE MIGHTY QUINN album, assembled for the US only just a few months prior to ‘Ragamuffin Man’ being released, is exceptional. They always used the long-play format to showcase a virtuosity and range of influences away from the world of pop singles. Despite not being an album recorded intentionally as such by the band, it plays like one, and combines all their assets nicely. It’s getting scarce these days, especially in a mint sleeve. I recommend everyone own a copy.


Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Listen: Dear Delilah / Grapefruit
Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Formed from the remnants of Tony Rivers & The Castaways, and Harmony Grass by George Alexander, birth name: Alexander Young. Brother to George (founding member of The Easybeats) as well Malcolm and Angus (founders of AC/DC). For some reason, the family left him behind in England when the others moved off to Australia. Lucky guy.

Grapefruit issued their first single to much attention as The Beatles had acquired the publishing and hence posed in trade pictures with the band. As with their label, The Beatles tended to be quite good at A&R. Even Brian Jones was in those publicity shots, God knows why. Result, the press were interested.

In the US, the debut single ‘Dear Delilah’ was released via Terry Melcher’s new imprint, Equinox, and hence got a decent push. Mom Doris Day wasn’t about to let son and Beach Boys’ friend Terry flop. But despite being recorded in “new orthophonic high fidelity” and getting some decent airplay, the imaginative psychedelic taint (not my words) of ‘Dear Delilah’ only reached #98 in the Billboard Top 100, and #21 in The UK. A shame.

Listen: Elevator / Grapefruit
Elevator / Grapefruit

The album AROUND GRAPEFRUIT, from which it came, was chocked full of gems including the followup ‘Elevator’. I remember it and The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’ shockingly being played on my hometown Top 40 one Saturday afternoon that spring. Getting picked up for some daytime airplay so quickly upon release via the generally tight WNDR seemed quite optimistic. I was temporarily content.

It was over before it started though, as both peaked and stalled during the same week (5/11/68) on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart (above, click to enlarge). Nearly failed my finals as a result, the depression was so bad.

Listen: Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit
Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit

Things took an even sharper left turn for Grapefruit a year or so later in ’70 when the band got a touch too progressive, recording DEEP WATER for new, in US that is, label RCA. It’s one of those blues soul prog rock calamities that sells for a nice price nowadays, but grinds by at snail’s pace once you get it onto the turntable. Second single, ‘Lady Godiva (Come Home)’ wants to be hooky, but some cringing lyrics and slightly Foghat leaning vocals prove punishing. Having said that, I do like a nice clean aural snapshot of a bad single, and this is one. They’re totally fascinating artifacts.

Listen: Universal Party / Grapefruit
Universal Party / Grapefruit

An unexpected, and more than low key reprieve occurred without explanation or commitment by Deram in ’73, when the label issued ‘Universal Party’. First listen will most likely result in a shrug at best, but the faint hint of glam gets a bit more addictive with a few more spins. Given it was Grapefruit and on Deram meant extra rope.

In hindsight, I guess nothing compared to the optimistic sound of those first few releases, which I’m reminded of daily as I eat my grapefruit each and every morning.