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.