CD/DVD Boxset Review – Man – Life On The Road: On Air (1972-1983)

Here’s a mammoth six-disc box set celebrating the broadcasts of Welsh psychedelic prog rock band Man. The collection consists of four CDs along with two DVDs, which are NTSC/region free, and brings together the extant UK radio and TV sessions, including those done for the BBC. These BBC recordings include three complete sets recorded for the popular In Concert series from gigs between 1972 and 1975, along with ten session tracks recorded for Sounds Of The Seventies, famed John Peel sessions and those for Bob Harris, plus two tracks recorded live in 1976 for Radio Trent along with a recording from the Reading Festival in 1983. The two DVDs feature the band’s appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test along with a recently unearthed twenty-eight-minute BBC documentary New Horizons – Man’s Seven-Inch Record which was broadcast in April 1974, concluding with Farewell At The Roundhouse which was filmed in 1976. All the tracks have been remastered from the original tapes, and the release is topped off with an illustrated book with an extensive essay featuring plenty of photographs.

The group formed in the coal mining town of Merthyr Tydfil in 1968, and earned praise for a run of notable albums issued between 1969 and 1976. Their proggy psychedelic spacerock sound was informed by US West Coast rock and retains a strong blues flavour. The band were popular on the live circuit where their instrumental powers were given free reign. They loved a good jam!

Success for Man came initially in Germany, but by 1972 they’d created more than a toe-hold in Britain, which was reflected by their recording a series of well received sessions and live concerts for the BBC that are presented here. But the band’s instability with ever changing line-ups did them no favours and they eventually stuttered to a halt in 1976 managing to play the farewell concert at The Roundhouse in London, which was a great venue for the band over the years, and is included here. Man reformed in 1983 and played at that years Reading Festival, which is also included. It was not yet the end for the band though, they continued to make more well received albums and tour extensively.

The group never made the inroads that others of its contemporaries managed to, and can be fairly viewed as a very well-respected cult band. Quite why Man didn’t gain a broader appreciation is pure speculation. Many of the band’s contemporaries went through similar upheavals in personnel, which is often cited as being destabilising. The standard of musicianship within the band always remained high though, showing especially when the band played live. Such performances were notable for the extended jams for which the band became notorious, and it maybe was this that was part of the issue. Listeners may have expected the music on Man’s album to sound a little more like the concerts that they had attended with the extended musical passages. The band also toured quite a lot in Europe and a lack of focus on the home market may have contributed. It could have been a lack of a break through single, not indulging in the sort of management or gimmicky shenanigans that other set-ups did to progress. Perhaps it was just ill-luck.

It is inevitable with collections such as this that a few songs crop up more than once, but on the whole, there is a very good spread reflecting the band’s output. The tapes have actually cleaned up very nicely indeed and although there are occasional instances when the age of the recordings show, these are few and far between.

At six discs long this is a comprehensive look at Man’s broadcasts. The band in all its moods and styles is represented. There are love songs, lack of love songs, reflections on life, the universe and everything, and the diversity of the band’s eclectic approach stands out. There’s more to the band than the psychedelic spacerockers which it is generally portrayed as. The band’s West Coast hippy vibe stands proud, but they could also be heavy-ish and slip into a country rock moment or two when the fancy took. All suffused in a blues light.

Disc One: BBC Radio One “In Concert” 20th January 1972

1 Spunk Rock

2 Romain

BBC Radio One “Sounds Of The 70s” 6th February 1973

3 The Brazilian Cucumber Meets Deke’s New Nose

4 Life On The Road

Disc Two: BBC Radio One John Peel

Session 18th September 1973

1 A Night In Dad’s Bag

2 Ain’t Their Fight

BBC Radio One “In Concert” 21st September 1973

3 Come On

4 Bananas

BBC Radio One Bob Harris

Session 27th February 1974

5 God Gave Us Turtles

6 Romain

7 Blown Away

Disc Three: BBC Radio One John Peel

Session 31st October 1974

1. Many Are Called But Few Get Up

2. A Hard Way To Die

3. Day And Night

BBC Radio One “In

Concert” 21st January 1975

4. 7171 551

5. A Hard Way To Die

6. Breaking Up Once Again

7. Day And Night

8. Someone Is Calling

9. Many Are Called But Few Get U

Disc Four: Radio Trent, Nottingham:

Loughborough

Polytechnic 28th February 1976

1. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

2. Born With A Future

BBC Friday Rock Show – Live At Reading Festival –

26th August 1983

3. Spunk Rock

4. C’mon

5. Talk About A Morning

6. The Ride And The View

7. Asylum

8. Romain

Disc Five – DVD

Man At The BBC – 1973-1975

1. Ain’t Their Fight (BBC TV

Old Grey Whistle Test 20.11.1973)

2. New Horizons – Man’s Seven-Inch Record (BBC TV

Documentary 11.04.1974)

3. Day And Night (BBC TV

Old Grey Whistle Test 10.01.1975)

4. Many Are Called But Few Get Up (BBC TV Old Grey

Whistle Test 10.01.1975)

Disc Six – DVD

Man – Farewell At The Roundhouse 1976

1. Let The Good Times Roll

2. 7171 551

3. Born With A Future

4. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

5. C’mon

6. Bananas

Features various line-ups

Release date: 30th September, 2022

Label: Cherry Red Records

Formats: CD/DVD Boxset

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/man-life-on-the-road-on-air-1972-1983-6cd-box-set/

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