To date I’m sure the most iconoclastic music produced by Manfred Mann when compared with his well-known pop persona is the eponymous album Manfred Mann Chapter III with its jazz and psychedelic pronouncements [reviewed here].
This has been trumped by I-cannot-calculate proportions [because where to start/contextualise/draw a reality-check breath?] with his latest album Lone Arranger. This ‘covers’ compilation – it is, but it isn’t – is so unexpected both in its choice of originals but also in the range of transformed genres that one cannot make a remotely familiar point of reference from which to draw comparisons easily.
Let’s start with the relatively straightforward: the jazz interpretation of perhaps one of the most solidified songs in terms of expected familiarity – Free’s All Right Now – is pleasingly peculiar, the muted trumpet stabs and Carleen Anderson’s vocal establishing its crossover alteration with acceptable ease. Yes, we prefer the original; yes, this is a jaunty jazz tribute that is cool enough.
Then there’s the other side of the coin, flipped into the stratosphere before landing back on a side we cannot recognise as the other side: Queen’s We Will Rock You [here just Rock You]. The tune – as we know it Jim – is a simple mirrored sample, and then it launches into a quick-fire vocal with punchy orchestrations and some vestiges of jazz from the previous Free track. There are pseudo-operatic vocal inserts too. It is – it IS – different.
Fourth Footprints (En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor) is made interesting by the spoken vocal of Kris Kristofferson, a captivating voice because so distinctive and probably best now as a spoken offering as his singing is so vulnerable; sixth Light My Fire is more jazz inflection [the German trumpeter Till Brönner having a significant contribution throughout the album, as does violinist Billy Thompson, beautifully so on this track] but it is a version that ranges way beyond the borders of its recognisable features; seventh I Heard It Through The Grapevine is quite funky, mainly instrumentally so with some vocal chorus, and did I mention the Kanye West appropriation? No? There you go.
And have I mentioned the hip-hop influences/inserts? Well, I should have because these are the bits that actually make the ‘remotely familiar’ reference of earlier have some credence [because in some respects this isn’t out there that far all of the time] and they are scattered about here and there, unexpectedly. They would be.
There’s twelfth Bang a Gong which is a take on T-Rex’s Get It On and this too is a funked-up plaything. The Doors’ The Crystal Ship gets perhaps the straightest rendition over 2 minutes. And then there is the finale, One Way Stand-Up that gets a sampling from that great earlier step outside the expected, One Way Glass from Manfred Mann Chapter III, and this is patched to The Prodigy’s Stand Up riff.
Do I like it?
Sorry, am I meant to answer that?
One Hand in the Air opens the album. It is a take on West’s So Appalled, apparently, and that’s essentially what threw me.
Sequence isn’t everything.