Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Man - Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth

Man
Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth


Released 1972 on United Artists
Reviewed by Fitter Stoke, 30/06/2002ce


The cliche that is the rock live album usually exists for several reasons: as a contract filling, quick cash in, or a greatest hits showcase. 'Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth' had a very different agenda. Released as a low priced limited edition LP in 1972, Man's first fully-fledged live album consisted of only three long tracks, none of which enjoyed any status as key songs in their repertoire of the period. Moreover, the line-up of the band had changed dramatically by the time the record was released. The gig featured was as low-key an event as the record's title suggests, with an audience of no more than a hundred heads in evidence. Yet 'Live At The Padget Rooms' is, in my humble opinion, a lost classic of concert recording.

The first thing that hits you is the matter-of-fact opening of the album. No over-the-top 'Kiss Alive' type hysteria here. A bit of tuning up, a rattle on the snare, and a delightfully quaint Welsh accent introducing "a song from the last album we had out", answered by two or three half-hearted cheers from the most indifferent "crowd" ever to curse a live record. After a full minute of more tuning and inebriated yells from solitary souls in the audience, 'Many Are Called, But Few Get Up' begins almost inperceptibly with Mickey Jones finger-picking a few faintly amplified arpeggio chords while Deke Leonard responds with 'Marquee Moon'-like motifs in the right channel. Then after another minute, the drums enter as Jones strums a slightly off key, sorrowful chord sequence which gives way in turn to the achingly heavy, yet foot-tappingly catchy, Crimsonesque main riff that forms the backbone of the song. The harmony vocals that follow are arch and disturbing, yet the lyric is pure nonsense, inspired by a cartoon on an Englands Glory matchbox. No matter, because the effect is startling and frightening. A brief and dexterous call-and-response sequence between the guitars precedes the incredible central sequence of the track, where Terry Williams pounds out a repetitive military rattle on his snare while what sounds like a pitched battle between Jimi Hendrix and Tom Verlaine erupts around him. From this chaos another morose and feedback-drenched minor key riff evolves, this time courtesy of Leonard in his best Dick Dale suit. The beat then transforms into a pulse on one note, akin to Faust's 'It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl', while Leonard and the bass rock that is Martin Ace whoop a manic wordless mantra and Jones brings in yet another Sabbath-like riff. Ace, then Leonard, gradually pick up on this desperately doom-ridden motif as the volume and tension reach burning point, then the climactic "My eyes are burning/My mind is opening" chant pushes the whole song over the edge and into pure free form freak out. (God knows what the pubs of Merthyr were serving up in 1972, but I could sure use a coupla pints!) Then, out of the mire appears a slow, relentless one-in-a-bar chordless vamp matched precisely by Williams' overworked snare drum. On and on it goes, banging your head like the hammer of Hades. Leonard tries to divert your attention with weird bottleneck figures, and Ace even tries a pseudo-funky bass lick, but it's no use: that ten-ton pendulum just keeps pounding at your very existence, louder and louder, faster and faster, until...until...

...it just STOPS.

Dead.

!

Now that is NOT what you expect to happen! A climactic, full-on band riff maybe...or another devolution into free form hell (a la 'Schizoid Man'). But to just STOP like that...Jeez, it's just incredible. First time I heard it I had to play it again in case I had a faulty disc. No, it's meant to end like that. Heavy, heavy, HEAVY! The polite applause that follows (after a second of doubt..."Has it finished yet?") is almost comical.

'Daughter Of The Fireplace' comes next, an android riffed, crowd-pleasing slice of 100 mph boogie with Deke doing his best Jerry Lee-on-speed vocal, preceded by one of those terrific long drawn out introductions that grace so many of the Manband's live songs. And guess how the song ends. It just stops. Again! No endless fiddly-diddly, Angus Young "aren't I brilliant" drawn out codas here folks. The playing, as throughout the album, is ever-so-slightly rough and ready, red hot and REAL. And at last the crowd wakes up, albeit temporarily.

Side Two is taken up with an incredible, half improvised instrumental piece called 'H Samuel (Jam)'. Like 'Many Are Called' at the start of the record, this one needs a bit of work on the listener's part, but it's well worth it. Starting with deliciously mental chord-play like an outtake from 'Trout Mask Replica' (and suspiciously akin to early XTC in sound), the track progresses into a vibe more akin to early Gong or Krautrock than the West Coast bands with whom Man are so often compared. Then, six and a half minutes in, the pace slackens as Jones and Leonard interpret the miriad clocks and watches of the jewellers that inspired the song's title. It's that bloody pendulum again, this time slower and quieter, but every bit as foreboding as it's appearance at the end of the first song. The pulse becomes the basis for another band jam, until Williams takes over with a jazzy rhythm that is pure Jaki Liebezeit, accompanied by Ace's high fretted bass. Leonard then treats us to some scat-like wordless vocals which, joined by Ace and Jones, turn into eerie, nightmarish wails while Williams turns his attention to the rims of his drumkit and the whole thing sounds like a precursor to 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' (but better, much better). An ascending, then descending, slow, slow riff evolves, building up volume and intensity until it reaches burnout and collapses, gradually, into a rhythmless guitar/vocal/feedback cry and then silence. More polite applause from a bemused (and audibly reduced) audience, and that's your lot.

In his erudite review of 'Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics' elsewhere on this site, Leppo Joove accurately observes how much freer Man are on stage than in the studio, and mentions the influence that touring with far-out labelmates like Amon Duul II and Can had on the band. 'Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth' illustrates exactly that. Man went on to release several more live albums, and the excellent 'Maximum Darkness' and 'All's Well That Ends Well' in particular demand your attention as documents of a remarkably distinctive, inventive and exciting band (who by the way are still alive, well and delivering the goods at a festival or pub near you). But for my money it's this sparsely packaged, cut-priced release that is the real Man deal. Spend nine quid on the BGO CD reissue and see if you agree. Man rock!


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