So the famous boxed set is out at last and doesn't it look great. It must be five years or more a go that the very nice Mr Fernie took me for a Pizza somewhere in the Elephant and Castle . I knew he
was going to con me into something yet again and I wasn't going to be disappointed. The idea of having complete freedom, (well almost!) to compile a four CD boxed set was exciting. Who out there
has never had a go at compiling their own best of for their favourite band or composer?
It was even mentioned at the discussion stage that I could include the odd unreleased track here and
there subject to Manfred's approval. So where to begin; I had been privileged over the years to listen to a few tracks,
that didn't make it on to the final album. I was also fortunate from the start to have Ian Tompson helping me. Ian is both
a brilliant engineer, but also understood quickly what I was trying to do and gave me loads of help, council and encouragement along the way.
Part of the story of "Odds and Sods" goes back even further. As most of you know, because it is the stuff of legends, two unreleased albums
were burnt to ash in the fire at the Workhouse back in the Eighties. The same fire also destroyed most of the masters for all the released albums,
singles and probably other interesting mis-takes . It was for this reason, as I have explained many times before, that in some cases, vinyl
recordings were used on the re-masters. Some copies of the masters were recovered from Europe and the States, which led to the record
company using an unusual edit of 'Black and Blue' on the re-mastered "Messin". I quite like little quirks like this, but I know a small number of you don't.
Anyway whilst scrambling around the world trying to find these masters and anything useable as a bonus track, we came upon the impossible.
Sat in a vault at Polymedia in the States were the legendary "Chapter III Volume 3" and "Stepping Sideways". I will never forget reading through
their catalogue of Manfred's stuff they sent me, the penny suddenly dropping. Even then I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
Then I had to wait for what felt an eternity whilst the record company acquired copies of the missing music. I remember playing them very
nervously. This was Manfred Mann that I had long accepted none of us would ever here.
I am still not certain why they had the stuff. So excited was I by this find that I almost missed a handful of interesting mono tracks from Chapter II
volume 1 and remain indebted to young Greg Russo for spotting them, hiding there. I knew that if I could get permission some of the Chapter III and all the Stepping Sideways tracks had to be in the box.
This brings me to the other significant thing about "Odds and Sods", which I think most of you probably already know. Manfred is quite rightly
extremely protective of his music. He has never let, unfinished or rough mixes go onto records before with the exception of a couple of things on
the re-masters. The reason for this is that Manfred has always argued that if it were good enough, it would be on the album anyway. This is the
reason for the title. My own title 'We Have No Past, Thirty Years of MMEB' is probably no better. So from the start of the project I was fully aware
that we might quite easily end up with four CDs of back catalogue. That was never my intention! Despite these reservations Manfred let me spend
a couple of days exploring shoeboxes full of DATs with Ian to find possible material.
My first plan was to have a live CD, a CD of unreleased studio stuff, a CD of the more unusual released material and one featuring the Holy Grail of
Manfred Mann recordings. I had at one stage planned to have an unreleased version of Masque on one CD. Gradually however, playing around
with the material I had available the CDs in about the form you have them now, took shape.
Many different considerations went into the final version. Ian 's valuable council as to what I might get away with and what I definitely wouldn't. I
also had to pay heed to what the record company wanted. Although they were happy for me to use live material, they didn't particularly like the
idea of a live CD, as "Mann Alive" hadn't been out that long at the time.
Inevitably when compiling albums like this, the final content was also strongly influenced by what Ian and I liked. We may have found a rare and
unusual recording but dumped it back in the box, because neither of us liked it. Interestingly I don't think we once argued over a choice of track,
although perhaps a couple of times over the choice of mix. Lets face it; no two people would have ended up with the same final track listing.
At last we had rough copies made of our final listings for the four CDs, which were sent to Steve who once he had decided he was happy, were
forwarded to Manfred for final approval. There was a week or two of silence . Ian and I had confidently expected to loose a few tracks. To our
surprise and delight Manfred gave us his approval. Ian was asked to edit a song, find a different mix for another and we were also asked to leave
off a live version of "Quinn", otherwise this was almost the final version, you now have.
From the great feedback I have had I think most of you understand that from the outset I wanted each CD to stand up as an album in its own right.
CD1 is self-explanatory, CD2 was done on the basis that I thought the record company wanted the big hits and I tried to find a slightly different
angle to this. CD3 ended up celebrating all the different vocalists Manfred has had over the years and some great music again. Hidden away here
is a little gem called 'All Through the Night'. This was recorded in between the "Masque" album and "Plains Music" during a period when frankly Manfred was becoming disillusioned with pop music.
Then there is CD4. What I tried to do here was create a bonus Earth Band album using material that had never been released before.
The booklet took ages to do, (Please remember I also work for a living!) I like to think that I am not a train spotter, (well actually I am!) but I wanted to
try to get some information that hasn't been published before. I am indebted to people all over the world for sending me info and press cuttings that
all helped in writing the booklet. Space restrictions inevitably meant that some of it did not make it into the final book, and I hope to put a few bits into my next Yawn.
As you all know the set was delayed for various reasons by a couple of years or more. The good news being that Manfred offered a further
unreleased track from his last recordings to bring the fourth CD bang up to date. Towards the end of this long journey I convinced myself it was all
going to be a bit disappointing. I had even seen proofs of the final artwork.
So when at last, a copy dropped through my letterbox I was completely over the moon. It looks and feels fantastic and is better than I had ever
expected. There are always disappointments especially when you spend a lot of time working on something, but I have no disappointments here. I was made up with it, as they say in Liverpool.
The unsung heroine of all this should get a very big mention here, because only through Helen's hard work, determination and dedication, have you
ended up with this fantastic set. I know there were times she felt like giving up on it, but she never did. It would be nice if you all gave her a big thank you.
Also remember to give Manfred a big thank you for letting this collection make it into the shops. In the end this is his way of thanking you all for
your support over the years and what a thank you. I was reading some of the comments on the message board the other day, a place I confess I
do not go very often, because I am either wound up or end up feeling very sorry for someone.
For almost all of us, this is one set that could have no negatives. A CD of brand new music, just when you thought you had another six or seven
years to wait! And if that isn't enough a CD containing an hour or more of music that up to a couple of years ago, we had all believed to be lost
forever. This is Manfred Mann music we thought we would never hear and even when it was rediscovered we still had to have Manfred's
blessing before it could be released. Let's face it I have no illusions as to my part in all of this. It could have come on a plain disc shoved in an old
brown envelope and this for all of us fans would have been a truly special moment. Don't you feel just a little bit sorry for the guy who as found
there is ten minutes free space on the CD? How easy it is to miss such a very special moment.
Andy Taylor (P A Taylor)
Having spent many years promoting Manfred's music, I hope he will forgive a little plug for my new book.