MAN HAVE a brace of live albums to their names and, happily, this one ranks with the best of them. The bleakly-titled "Maximum Darkness" is very much on par with both the 'Greasy Truckers Party' live double LP that the band shared with Hawkwind, and even the 'Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth' classic: in short, it's a memorable souvenir of the recent tour with excellent Quicksilver guitarist John Cippolina.
Recorded live at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse this May, the album comprises just five tracks, and out of them two numbers stand out immediately. A wild version of Deke'e '7171-551', with Man's most slippery guitar riff, is one; but best of all is the 13 minute 'Many Are Called But Few Get Up'. Recently revived from Man's 'You Like It Here Now? Are You Settling In?' days, the cut is surprisingly faithful to the original '72 recording. Although it contains some awful post-psychedelic lyrics: 'Look at this green fly crawling across my face'/'My eyes are burning, my mind is opening', it's nonetheless rough-edged Welsh stuff. The monotonous bass line ever-dominant, Cippo's guitar work both seething and spritely, powerful drum work creates a fiendish undercurrent that reaches an awesome climax at the very end. The other numbers are: 'Codine', 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' and a jolly rendition of 'Bananas'.
A lot of criticisms were levelled at Cippolina during the tour with Man - many people thought that his playing was unsympathetic with the Man sound and that his role was too dominant. But on this recorded evidence it seems that he fitted in nicely and had most of the numbers off to a tee.
The album's crisp, clear quality, its cover's bold Rick Griffin graphics, and above all, Man's spirited performance make this one of the best live LPs to be released this year. Real fine.- Geoff Barton
Sounds October?, 1975