“Back Into the Future” by Man (1973)
Around 1976, when most of my “peers” were listening to disco and/or other current music trends, I steeped myself in the sounds of the previous decade.
One of my first great interests in that regard was Jefferson Airplane, because I’d seen a vintage “American Bandstand” performance of “White Rabbit” and was intrigued not only the the minor-key structure of the song and the psychedelic trappings surrounding the TV presentation, but, of course, the gorgeous brunette who was singing.
My Grace Slick crush led me to learn more about the band, such as that it hailed from San Francisco and hung out a lot with other groups like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. And so I became interested in those acts, as well.
The least-known one I’ve mentioned is Quicksilver, but the musicians involved were among the most talented in the Bay Area in the late ’60s, especially guitarist John Cipollina (1943-89).
Decades later, well after Cipollina’s death, I learned he’d collaborated with a band called Man, which was described as the “Welsh Quicksilver Messenger Service.” I couldn’t resist, so I started seeking out Man albums.
“Back Into the Future” is a half-studio, half-live collection, originally a double LP, that straddles its psychedelic, jam-oriented ’60s roots with a progressive edge, with enhanced incorporation of keyboards and advanced melodic structures.
The studio material makes for a good listen, but the live stuff really catches my attention, probably because two of the three concert tracks near or exceed 20 minutes.
The exception is “Sospan Fach,” an odd little ditty performed by a Welsh men’s choir. Those gentlemen’s voices are put to good use during the ensuing track, “C’mon,” a rousing composition that transitions from riff-driven rock ‘n’ roll to a somber interlude reminiscent of part of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother.”
Side Four of the original album was devoted entirely to 21 minutes’ worth of something titled “Jam Up Jelly Tight/Oh No Not Again (Spunk Rock ’73).” The latter part refers to the band’s signature song at the time, which gained a lot of attention when 20 minutes of it appeared on a compilation called “The Greasy Truckers’ Party.” (Reportedly, no one turned on a recorder until 10 minutes into the song.) At any rate, if you’re inclined toward lengthy guitar workouts, sit back and enjoy.
And by the way, Cipollina’s collaboration resulted in an album called “Maximum Darkness,” released in 1976. It’s decent and all, but I’d recommend “Back Into the Future” if you’re curious about Man. (Man the band, that is; no wisecracks!!!)