The Womenfolk

Man Oh Man!

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For one or two years after mid-1965, there were numerous albums in the amusing, little-heard genre of '60s folk revival acts trying desperately, hastily, and usually cluelessly to update their sound into the folk-rock era. The Womenfolk were not exactly big contenders even in the pre-Byrds folk era, and Man Oh Man! is a prototypically amusing/misbegotten entry into the folkies-go-hip arena. Perhaps it didn't seem as bizarre at the time, when history hadn't made its final judgment as to where the chips (and dollars) would finally fall. But it's certainly bizarre long after the fact to hear this LP, which can't seem to make up its mind whether to be a sterile folk record, a commercial folk-rock one, or the kind of orchestrated MOR easy listening pop designed to appeal to all ages. The cover of Richard & Mimi FariƱa's great "Reno Nevada" indicates that someone in the group or involved with them had hip ears, but the actual track is a mishmash of trendy 1966 folk-rock backing (complete with dragging beat and slide guitar) and a horn-laden arrangement suitable for go-go soundtracks. On many of the other cuts, they're essentially a wholesome vocal group whose harmonies are equally grounded in folk and the glee club, unable to get down even on the cover of Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" (here retitled "Baby, What You Do to Me"). The cover of "The Times They Are A-Changin'," with embarrassingly stilted vocals neutering the electric guitar accompaniment, is immediately followed by their interpretation of "Sunrise, Sunset," as if they immediately want to make amends for a protest song and lure the parents back into the room. And as with most albums operating at such cross-purposes, the end result is an effort that tries to please everyone and pleases no one, even if it's good for some kitsch fun for folk-rock historians.