Man & Friends

Christmas at the Patti

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A magnificent rendering of Man's 1972 Christmas party staged at Swansea's Patti Pavilion, Christmas at the Patti was released as a limited-edition budget-priced double-10" vinyl package, its gatefold packed with party pics and its grooves bristling with some remarkable music. No simple Man gig this -- no less than the mighty underground gatherings convened at such legendary London holes as Dingwalls and the Roundhouse, Christmas at the Patti was to be a celebration of southern Welsh rock in as many guises as they could fit in. But, whereas the result is usually filed alongside those other live remembrances of early-'70s British rock Glastonbury Fayre and Greasy Truckers, the reality is far more cohesive and, ultimately, far more enjoyable. The Jets and Plum Crazy, long dead heroes of the local scene, both re-formed for the evening, turning in singalong sets as joyous and relaxed as any music their main members went on to create -- Man men Deke Leonard and Martin Ace were members of the Jets, but you've probably never heard them play "Jambalaya" before; the great Dave Edmunds guests with Plum Crazy, and lets rip with a signature slam through "Run, Run, Rudolph."

Help Yourself, longtime friends of the headliners, also boast a couple of guests -- Leonard again plus pedal steel whiz B.J. Cole. Two lengthy tracks, a hypnotic "Mona" and their own marathon "Eddie Waring," are preserved here, and bear gripping testament to the band's own magnificent powers of improvisation, too seldom heard on its regular albums but looming larger than life in concert. Ducks Deluxe, newcomers to the scene in 1972, make their recorded debut by turning in a growling "Boogaloo Babe," while another previously unheard band, Martin Ace's the Flying Aces, are introduced via their first ever show; they open the album with the absolutely fitting "Welcome to the Party," although at the show itself the Flying Aces were the next-to-last band of the evening -- the last, of course, being Man itself. Joined by vocalist Stan Phifer and a returning Dave Edmunds, the group turns in just two songs, "Life on the Road" and "Shuffle," but both rank high in any pantheon of all-time great Man performances. Indeed, if there's any downside to the entire Patti experience, it's that the rest of the evening -- including performances from three other bands (Wally Hot Stuff, the League of Charlies, and Eyes of Blue) -- has remained unreleased for so long. After all, listeners have had multi-disc extended versions of Woodstock, Monterey, and Isle of Wight. Why not Christmas at the Patti as well?

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