Review – Man: Life On The Road – On Air 1972-1983 – by John Wenlock-Smith

Man are a band of who you have almost certainly heard, yet may be largely unaware of for various reasons. Their style and sound encompasses both progressive and psychedelic leanings along with a smattering of West Coast sounds. Think of a Welsh version of Grateful Dead and you won’t be a million miles from their influences and their missive.

I became aware of Man through their rather splendid 1975 album ‘Maximum Darkness’, a live set recorded at The Roundhouse in North London, a show which also featured John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service as a guest guitarist.. This one album was highly regarded, especially by my school friend Peter who had also influenced me with his bizarre yet enticing recommendations, ZZ Top’s ‘Fandango’ live album and Foghat’s ‘Energized’, among others. He was also a huge Uriah Heep fan but this was his favourite, becoming an admired piece of work, its classic cover and excellent grooves making for a rewarding listening experience.

This new boxset from Cherry Red captures much much more of that sound and era, the sets are spectacular, really capturing the essence of Man who were always a far better band live as that was where they excelled, truth be told. Some bands are far far better live than on record and that was definitely the case with Man. Live they were a force of nature, stretching songs to the max and turning in excellent performances which is why they released so much live material as they were at their best on stage.

This set has 4 CDs and 2 DVDs of live performances. Okay, there is a bit of overlap but that doesn’t really matter, especially if you are a fan like me. I never saw Man live so this is an opportunity to rectify, in part at least. The set is compiled from recordings made for the BBC and covers the period 1972 to 1983. This includes favourites like Spunk Rock, Romain, Life On The Road, C’mon and Bananas, the sound is good throughout and you can hear their influences clearly. I especially like the longer tracks where improvisation is given free rein. There is some very fine music on display here, great dual guitar lines, good slide guitar and a very solid rhythm section prowling things along.

Very noteworthy is the track God Gave Us Turtles that was unreleased at time of recording and later surfaced as the epic album track Scotch Corner on the ‘Rhinos Winos and Lunatics’ album, here it is in embryonic form. Also laudable is the live recording of Man’s 1983 Friday Night Rock Show coverage of their Reading Festival performance from August of that year, with great versions of Spunk Rock, C’mon and Bananas. There’s also a great set from The Rainbow on DVD and the long thought lost BBC Schools documentary from 1973. Man were more of an albums band, their music did not fit the mainstream well. It was too hippyish and drug fuelled to fit easily, although it was popular with students and hippies, their ever changing line-up didn’t help much either.

I also really enjoyed the last performance from The Rainbow in 1976 that later emerged on the album ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ in 1977, their last album before they reformed for The Marquee shows in 1983 and The Reading Festival show. It’s great to have a film of that performance where they are a bit looser and less restrained.

I have to say this set really grows on you as you familiarise yourself with it and it will appeal to fans of Man far more than the casual listener, although it does serve as a good way to get a taste for the band as most of their more accessible tracks feature here. For me though, I’d start with ‘Maximum Darkness’ and work forward from there as most of their albums are worth hearing.

With excellent music, a great booklet and two great DVDs of performances, what more could you ask for? I’d certainly recommend this to listeners as it is an excellent and comprehensive collection compiled with a lot of affection and attention to detail.

Released 7th October, 2022.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Man: Life On The Road – On Air 1972-1983, 6CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

YES Announce UK Dates For The Relayer Album Series Tour 2023

Progressive legends YES have announced UK dates for their long-awaited Album Series 2023 Tour featuring their 1974 Relayer album in its entirety together with a selection of other classic YES favourites. Tickets are on sale from 10am on Friday 14th October.

The Relayer Tour was originally planned for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic and last year’s highly successful 50th anniversary of their legendary Close To The Edge album. The Royal Albert Hall was the original choice for the tour’s London show but has no availability, so the band will make a nostalgic return to an old haunt, the former Hammersmith Odeon.

The coming tour features Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar) with Jay Schellen (drums and percussion) stepping into Alan White’s shoes following his passing in May 2022.

The show will comprise of two sets by the band. The first will feature favourite classic tracks from YES’s extensive catalogue. YES will perform Relayer, their seventh studio album, in full in the second set. Relayer marked a slight change in direction bringing an edgier feel to this album. At almost 22 minutes in length, the opening track Gates Of Delirium included a battle scene between keyboard and guitar. The battle gives way to the beautiful closing ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

Relayer continues with Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment demonstrating the power of Alan White and Chris Squire, and To Be Over, a calm and gentle conclusion to the album, based on a melody by Steve Howe and Jon Anderson.

Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer continued YES’s success reaching number 4 in the UK album chart and number 5 in the US Billboard chart.

The UK Relayer Tour dates for 2023 are as follows:

Saturday 10 June Birmingham Symphony Hall

Sunday 11 June Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Monday 12 June York Barbican

Wednesday 14 June Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Thursday 15 June Gateshead The Sage

Friday 16 June Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 

Saturday 18 June Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Tuesday 20 June London Eventim Apollo

Tickets from and all usual outlets.

About YES

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 –1981, 1990–1992, 1995–present)

Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980–1981, 2011–present)

Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2012–present)

Billy Sherwood: guitar, backing vocals ((1994, 1997–2000), bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–present)

Jay Schellen: drums and percussion

Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Yessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.

With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.

YES released their 22nd studio album in 2021, The Quest, which went to No. 1 in the UK Rock Albums Chart and entered the Official UK Album Chart at No. 20.

In May 2022 came the sad news that drummer Alan White, ever-present in the YES line-up for 50 years, had passed away. The news came shortly before the band embarked on their 50th anniversary tour marking the release of their classic, genre-defining album Close To The Edge.

Review – Virgil & Steve Howe – Lunar Mist

On the 11th of September 2017 a tragic event rocked the home of Steve Howe and his family when his 41 year old son Virgil died of a sudden unexpected heart attack. Virgil and Steve had produced an album together earlier in that year, called ‘Nexus’, this was an instrumental album that brought Virgil’s drums and keyboards together with Steve’s lyrical guitar lines and tones to great effect. Well, after Virgil’s death Steve found an unused and unreleased track, Lunar Mist, that became the starting point for this album in which Steve has completed musical sketches, ideas and concepts and has added bass and guitar to complete an entirely new album. One that not only is a tribute to his son but, one that allows his legacy to continue. Again, this is fully instrumental in sound but in its fourteen tracks lie some beautifully crafted sound scapes and paintings.

The album opens with the title track, Lunar Mist, that starts with single piano notes before a lumbering tone evokes a mist rolling across the landscape. This is a very simple but effective number with lots happening musically. The drumbeat is steady and the bass and guitars lock into the rhythm as Virgil’s keyboard sound evokes the mist, I really like this track, simple yet captivating. More Than You Know features Steve on acoustic nylon string guitar, where his tone is warm and delicate, showing once again why he is so highly regarded as a master guitarist and composer/musician and its gentle nature really makes a fine impression. Plexus sees Steve laying down some suitably fluid pedal steel lines over a delicate piano track. Again, this is another masterful piece and, at seventy-five years of age, Steve Howe continues to make valid musical statements.

This is a generally laid back, mid-tempo album but within all that is the creativity and also the close connection the two had and that Steve continues to hold dear and that shows in this music.

Mariah’s Theme is another commanding piece of music that begins with what sounds like vibes and a delicate synth along with what sounds like either ring modulation or bells. Steve’s guitar is then introduced, alongside a middle eastern sound, it’s all very exotic but, once again, very effective. This is followed by the excellent A Month In The Sun, which allows Steve some space for some inventive guitar parts. The track has a lumbering, swaggering sound that is very effective. This is an album that improves with familiarity as its hidden depths are unravelled. As If Between is less successful and is more throwaway to these ears but it is only a short track so it doesn’t ruin the album. Never Less is more on point for me with a fine blend of Virgil’s piano and Steve’s nylon strung guitar making wonderful music.

Lothian’s Way is another shorter track that has more of Steve’s delicate acoustic guitar offset among a plethora of swirling keyboards. There is a bit of a Celtic effect attempted but it doesn’t really succeed to my ears, even so, it is still a strong and enjoyable piece. Free Spirit is an engaging track that is very reminiscent of those Windam Hill albums of the late 90’s as this ploughs a similar path but ,with Steve’s distinctive guitar tones, this is a definite winner of a track! Eternal opens with strong piano lines leading the music, in fact Steve’s guitar is largely absent in this track and this is a great piece even without it. Dirama is next and is another strong track with very well defined guitar lines from Steve and strong keyboards from Virgil, another brief track but it is a very worthy one.

This album has a variety of moods and tones, all of which, taken together, make for a very pleasing listening experience and you can appreciate the crafting that has turned these ideas into reality in such a gracious and worthwhile manner.

The shorter track Pinnacle is next with short bursts of guitar from Steve offset against expansive keyboards in a concise statement of intent. Pagoda sounds like it should be Oriental sounding but, sadly, is a missed opportunity perhaps? Final track Martian Mood is suitably spacey sounding with lost of ascending and descending synth lines and some great angular guitar interjections.

This concludes an album consisting of some excellent tracks in the main, along with a couple that fail to make much headway and some that could have gone in a different direction, maybe to produce better results. Either way, it’s an interesting album and one that’s definitely worth hearing in memory of Virgil. The cover is by Virgil’s daughter Zuni and very striking it is too.

Released 23rd September, 2022.

Order the album here:

Virgil & Steve Howe – Plexus (