Manfred Mann: Lone Arranger

Nice title, shame about most of the music.

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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.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.