Micky Jones - guitar, vocals; Deke Leonard - guitar, vocals; Martin Ace - bass, vocals; Terry Williams - drums; Guest: John Cipollina - guitar
The legendary Welsh band Man embraced the underground spirit of the 1960s, but unlike their European contemporaries, avoided the classical pretensions of the progressive rock movement. Instead, they were a hard rocking band that was clearly influenced by the sounds emanating out of San Francisco. By the mid-1970s, Man had developed into a full-blown jam band, loved for their heavy psychedelic excursions and adventurous spirit. Deke Leonard and Micky Jones, the two lead guitar players, were both fans of Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist, John Cipollina, whose quirky unorthodox approach to guitar they often emulated. By blending elements of psychedelia, blues, vocal harmony, and jam-driven rock 'n' roll, Man rarely played a song the same way twice, putting them in line with other West Coast counter-culture favorites like Quicksilver and the Grateful Dead. However, Man was equally aware of the pummeling ferocity of fellow-European bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and although those influences were not overt, Man had a distinctly harder edge than the San Francisco bands they admired and a sound that was more indicative of the 1970s.
Recorded during Man's second American Tour, when they were promoting their Slow Motion album, this performance captures the group at their best, although the tour was not without it's challenges. Early on, the group had played Winterland; coincidentally supporting Peter Frampton on the nights he recorded Frampton Comes Alive, one of the most successful live albums of all time. Although the band was well received, midway through the tour, bassist Ken Whaley quit, leaving the group in a difficult position. They immediately sent word to Martin Ace, who arrived in America with literally the clothes on his back, to complete the tour and the U.K. tour already scheduled to follow. After Ace joined the group, it was necessary to rehearse and the band retreated to Sausalito to work him in to their current repertoire. It was during these rehearsals that their friend Ron Sanchez came to visit, bringing along guitar hero, John Cipollina. The group would strike up a friendship with Cipollina, who was lying low following the demise of his band, Copperhead. At the tail end of the tour, which had Cipollina joining the band onstage, they invited him to join the group for their upcoming UK tour. Cipollina agreed, soon resulting in the band's most popular album, Maximum Darkness, which was essentially a compilation of live performances.
This performance, recorded at the tail end of that second American tour, features the quartet lineup just before Cipollina came on board. On the final night of a three-night run at Winterland, opening for Montrose, this recording captures a consistently strong performance featuring extended versions of some of their best early material. The set kicks off with "7171-551," a song sourced from Deke Leonard's solo album, Iceberg. Unlike the upbeat little single it originally was, here the band turns it into to a nearly 11-minute assault on the senses, not unlike the version they would soon appear on Maximum Darkness.
This is followed by an absolutely monumental version of "C'mon," a track from their 1972 album Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day. A group composition designed for improvisation, here that is taken to the extreme, clocking in at 23 minutes! With free form weirdness and high energy propulsive jamming in equal measure, this is a tour-de-force performance that the San Francisco audience fully embraces. With the exploratory twin lead guitar attack of Jones and Leonard, this represents the improvisational approach of this lineup at its most exploratory.
Deke Leonard's "A Hard Way To Die" is up next, representing the only Slow Motion material performed during this set. This stomping rocker is more straightforward and displays the group is quite capable of tighter ensemble playing when they care to. They close the set by venturing back to their 1971 album, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? for another group collaboration. Also soon to be rerecorded for the Maximum Darkness album, this performance of "Many Are Called But Few Get Up" is a precursor to that version. Beginning introspectively with delicate guitar riffs that slowly spiral upwards, this morphs into a raw hard rocking jamfest featuring plenty of wah-wah, delay, and effect-laden guitar soloing that eventually degenerates into a wall of controlled feedback and noise, much to the audience's delight.
The San Francisco audience roars their approval with shouts of more until Man return to the stage for an encore. They announce that "something very special for us" is about to happen and then John Cipollina joins the group onstage. They may not have realized it yet, but a new lineup of Man was being born on the stage of Winterland. Unfortunately, the tape stock ran out, failing to capture this meeting of the minds, but the improvisational jam that they ease into shows great promise and recalls the guitar interplay of Happy Trails era Quicksilver. Regardless, the majority of this set thoroughly displays the creativity that Man exhibited in live performance during a most revered time in their career. While Leonard and Jones are not guitar virtuosos, they have enough inspired ideas to keep both the audience and the music grooving. This was an important night in the group's history, ending their second American tour with a triumphant return to San Francisco.