Manfred Mann

The Mighty Quinn

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The U.S. record industry was renowned for doctoring U.K. albums and including commercial single material. The situation with The Mighty Quinn was a little more complicated than that, however -- it is derived from Manfred Mann's U.K. album The Mighty Garvey, which did, in fact, contain the group's last big hit, the U.K. number one/US Top Ten "The Mighty Quinn." But that LP also had the veneer and appearance of a concept album (built around the "in" joke of "Eddie Garvey," a non-existent persona conceived by the band for its own amusement, akin to Buster Poindexter's relationship to David Johansen), and Mercury Records in America evidently figured that this was a little bit too much of a concept for American audiences (who weren't as attuned to the band as their U.K. cousins) to absorb. So out went the "Eddie Garvey" tracks and the title, the whole album was deconstructed, and suddenly the hit "The Mighty Quinn" (a cover of a Dylan song that had not, as yet, appeared in a version by the composer) was the title of the piece and moved from last to first spot on the first side of the LP, followed by "Ha Ha Said the Clown," a catchy piece of pop-psychedelia with some interesting tempo shifts and aggressive use of a Mellotron, that had been on the U.K. version's second side. The rest is a lot more challenging and diverse: "Everyday Another Hair Turns Grey," with its Kinks-like choruses and beat (circa Village Green Preservation Society), and the ethereal pop-psychedelia of "It's So Easy Falling"; from there we jump to "Big Betty," a Leadbelly tune grafted to a Bo Diddley beat generated by seriously pounding bass and drums, and some sharp guitar flourishes, and then the psychedelic mood piece "Cubist Town," a sort of downbeat "Penny Lane"; Side Two opened with the slightly folkish "Country Dances," which manages to sound like the Strawbs and psychedelic-era Kinks at various moments, followed by the U.S. single "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James"; "The Vicar's Daughter" was a fascinating effort at pop-psychedelic songwriting that manages to be cautionary and wistful all at once, dealing with lost innocence from a male point of view; "Each and Every Day" was as fine a piece of pop R&B as the group had delivered since "Do Wah Diddy Diddy"; and "No Better No Worse" closed this version of the album on a pop psychedelic note with a catchy chorus. On a purely commercial level, the Mercury executives were probably right, as U.K. audiences avoided the album in droves -- despite its having a number one hit on it -- while Americans at least purchased it in sufficient numbers to get it to the lower reaches of the top 200 albums. It is rare that U.S. versions of '60s album are preferable to their U.K. counterparts, as they usually contain fewer cuts and go against the artist's intentions with regard to track running order. However, The Mighty Quinn might be the exception, at least for casual listeners who don't know Manfred Mann as a psychedelic band -- the hits in combination with the more intricate and eclectic material make a more varied and enjoyable listen for the ordinary record buyer. Serious fans, however, should plunge right into The Mighty Garvey.

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