Man - Diamonds And Coal
There was plenty of surprise when The Manband reformed in 1983, after
a seven year layoff. Diamonds And Coal is only the fourth studio album
to be released over the twenty plus years they have been back on the
road. There have been at least three 'official" live albums, and
several "fan club" recordings to fill the gaps. Since the
release of Endangered Species in 2000, things have not gone well in
the Man camp. Health issues sidelined Deke, and eventually lead to his
leaving the band. Phil Ryan's return was short lived due to his own
health crisis. In the midst of all this, Micky Jones was diagnosed with
a brain tumor. Micky's son George was brought in to replace Deke, who
returned to the line up while Micky was out of action. Eventually Josh
Ace, Martin's son was drafted when it became clear Micky would not be
able to rejoin the band.
This new album is the work
of a band finding their own sound. The good news is George Jones studied
well at his father's knee. He's a fine guitarist, with a good voice.
Josh Ace is still very young but shows promise as a singer and song
writer. Word from the road has him improving in leaps and bounds. Martin
Ace has had to step up and by default become the primary songwriter.
The score card shows at least
five solid songs, better than 50% average. The album opens with the
title track sung by Josh. A proud father putting his own right to the
front. He pulls it off, despite it all. It's a good song, that I want
to hear again in a couple of years when Josh is full of confidence and
found the power in his voice. The mix puts his slightly tentative singing
down in the mix. Nothing wrong with the results, but if you were expecting
Deke or Micky, or even Phil Ryan, you could be disappointed. George
has been on the road with Man for a few years now, and has a stronger
voice. You can hear the Jones genes at work. Not of voice as "sweet"
as his father, but give him a bit more time. His guitar work is coming
along too. He's very good, but maybe lacking the stunning originality
of his father, or Deke. Those are big shoes to fill. I'd like to see
him get beyond some of the obvious modern licks he uses. He will find
his sound now that it's all on his shoulders.
The arrangements are always
interesting. Some clever twists keep the listener engaged. It's a shame
Gareth Thorrington, the keyboard player, left after completing his work
on the album. At this point another melodic element seems crucial. Martin
has generously waited for the two newest members to take a turn before
he steps up. Freedom Fries. You can hear the experience in his song
that is lacking up to this point on the album. That said, this fine
number runs on a bit too long. When George does jump in on the long
outtro, it kicks things up a notch.
It's the next two songs that
convince me this band could well match the level of this band's legacy.
Twistin' The Knife and Man Of Misery rise above the the others. They
just seem more fully formed and performed. I'm still going to deduct
point for the lyrics. They have neither the stoned humor or clever word
play that one has become to expect from a Man record.
The final four songs fail
to lift the energy, and the album ends on a slightly ordinary note.
Not a complete success, but far from a failure. Over the past 40 years
the Manband set some very high standards and their fans should expect
them to live up to that. Under the circumstances, I am happy to cut
them some slack. This one might be a bit more interesting than Twang
Dynasty, but without Micky or Deke on board there is going to be something
lacking. I understand the band is working on material for the follow
up. That seems like the only logical plan.