The first of a duo of "two-fer" collections of Manfred Mann's earliest work from 1964 and 1965 oddly combines their first and third American albums onto a single disc. Although there aren't any extras added onto these straight 2001 reissues (except for replications of the original cheesy notes), the crisply remastered sound is in pristine stereo. As a cross between the jazzy style of the Zombies, the ragged R&B of Them, and the recycled American blues of the Pretty Things and Yardbirds, Manfred Mann hit a lot of diverse bases. Covering songs from Burt Bacharach, Muddy Waters, Goffin, King, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Bo Diddley, Joe South, and even early Bob Dylan, the band cut a wide musical swath. That they pull it off is a testament to the talents involved, and not just keyboardist Mann. Vocalist Paul Jones was an underrated talent, certainly on par with the Yardbirds' Keith Relf, and the group's firm musical grounding made their arrangements creative and often biting. The hits included here ("Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "My Little Red Book") are not indicative of the more raw bluesy attack the band favored. Their secret weapon was reed player Mike Vickers, whose flute and sax are integral elements to the sound, and unusual for Brit Invasion bands of the time. The jazzy instrumental version of "Frere Jacques" (Brother John) shows how far afield they could go, but this was a band that clearly was ahead of the pack, and never achieved appropriate recognition either at the time or even since.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz