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Manfred Mann: Lone Arranger

Nice title, shame about most of the music.

You can’t knock Mann’s ambition, or bravery.

Lone Arranger sees the veteran bandleader tackle a handful of the biggest pop/rock songs in history, recasting them in unfamiliar settings. Queen’s We Will Rock You (truncated here to Rock You) forgoes its original bombast for a flurry of beat-tronica and a breakneck female vocal. The Doors’ Light My Fire becomes an electro-jazz thing with strings, trumpet and a violin solo. The trouble is that neither of them work particularly well, with Mann presumably under the impression that radicalising such hoary old staples is enough of a statement in itself. To the extent that, by the time I Heard It Through The Grapevine arrives in full-funk R&B mode, you’re cursing Whitfield and Strong for ever having written the damn thing. The exception to the rule is Bang A Gong, which actually sounds pretty healthy stripped of its glam-boogie and tethered to a loping groove. There are other successes here too: One Hand In The Air cheekily reclaims Kanye West’s sample of Mann’s own song You Are – I Am. But for the most part – and despite a decent guestlist that includes Kris Kristofferson and Level 42’s Mark King – Lone Arranger falls flat.