Man were a rock band from South Wales established in 1968 as a reincarnation of the harmony group The Bystanders. Their style is a mixture of West Coast psychedelic rock, prog rock, pub rock and blues. They are mainly renowned for the extended jams during live performances. The Welsh Connection was their eleventh album which lately got a reissue by Esoteric Recordings. Initially the album was released in 1976 on the MCA label. It was Man's first album for MCA after they'd left United Artists. It was also the first record after a line-up change that included Micky Jones (guitars, vocals), Deke Leonard (guitars, vocals), Phil Ryan (keyboards, vocals), John McKenzie (bass, vocals) and Terry Williams (drums, vocals).
The Welsh Connection was Man's last studio album for sixteen years to come. It sold poorly and it failed to chart and therefore it's easy to understand why the band called it a day for the time being. However, there's some irony in the closing track Born With A Future, because they really reunited in 1983. The Welsh Connection includes some wonderful prog rock, although the first two tracks are rather mainstream rock with a leading role for the electric guitars. The prog party just starts with Love Can Find A Way. Here the keyboards take over from the guitars and shift the music to a style that resembles the music of Camel. Also the title track shows a perfectly fitting combination of guitars and synthesizers. It's a pleasure to notice how the musicians interact.
The next three outstanding compositions are Something Is Happening, Car Toon and Born With A Future . Again I noticed the many Camel references, although I think that's just a coincidence because I doubt if they really were familiar with Camel at the time, but I like it anyway! In my opinion the most annoying problem for the musicians was the mixture, since the keyboards are mixed in the foreground, while the guitar parts are less prominent than usual. The album reached number 40 in the UK Album Chart and was toured in March and April 1976 in Britain and in June and July in the USA. During the USA tour differences arose again and on the subsequent European tour Ryan and McKenzie announced they would be leaving. Then the other band members agreed to call it a day.
This reissue by Esoteric Recordings has been newly remastered from the original master tapes and features the bonus track I'm A Love Taker together with the entire recording of Man's concert at The Keystone, Berkeley, California on the 9th of August 1976. The concert also saw guest guitarist John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service) join the band on the last four songs of the set. The whole concert can be heard on the last part of the first disc and on the second disc. Again this concert proves Man to be a great live band that could jam and improvise during a live performance. Many fantastic solo parts on the electric guitars and keyboards can be enjoyed. Good examples are songs as C'Mon, Many Are Called, But Few Get Up, Something Is Happening and the title track from The Welsh Connection, an album that had to be promoted at the time.
While playing this album I got more than once the impression that I was listening to a concert of Manfred Mann's Earth Band. On stage this band also played their songs differently compared to the studio recordings. Apart from the two discs this release contains live shots and a lavishly illustrated booklet with new liner notes with a lot of information about the band.
I know that many albums recorded by Man contain no progressive rock and for that reason these albums aren't interesting for our readers. However, The Welsh Connection is an album that will be loved by a lot of prog heads. Just give it a try and discover that I was right all the way!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?