Review: Maximum Rhythm'n'Blues with The Manfreds, at Birmingham Town Hall

The Manfreds remain an exciting musical proposition. Part of the Alexis Korner-centric 60s British r&b boom, they, by original frontman Paul Jones's admission, tread a schizophrenic path.

One side is the sometimes lightweight pop confection of songs like Do Wah Diddy Diddy, and My Name Is Jack, the other the rather more muso territory of the serious beat intellectual and aesthete of the early 1960s.

These are serious rhythm and blues players. Wisdom has it that the era would have been tremendously dreary, still in post war malaise had it not been for the interjection of American black r&b, soul and jazz, and the hipster dress codes which accompanied it.

Guitarist Tom McGuinness has told me about the scene with Korner, Paul Jones dug Brian Jones, it all coalesced and British white boys got the groove and the threads, flowers of music exploded into bloom.
Four original members of the band played at Birmingham Town Hall.

Mike D'Abo opened with flute embellished Ha! Ha! Said The Clown, an eccentric innovative Fontana 45 from '66, and excellent version of Handbags and Gladrags and the Foundations hit Build Me Up Buttercup.

Paul Jones remains in superb voice, his wily frame agile, flame undiminished despite the approach of his seventh decade. Indeed, it is the strong musical roots of all which permeate the commercial songs as well as the r&b, making a satisfying listening pleasure.

This was always the key to The Manfreds' excellence, they made bubblegum troublesome with a filthy shot of grit America, a natural alchemy undiminished by passing years or transient fads.
The splendid Mike Hugg performed his sophisticated solo piano composition, but his excellent Up The Junction theme song yet again remained unplayed.

Tom, who is recovering from health problems, looked rather gaunt, but his joy in music was in his face, an outward beam.

Auxiliery and more recent members provided locked in musical support, including Family's Rob Chapman a stylish jazz drummer and top notch bass and brass players.
Guest Cliff Bennett delivered the wonder of Revolver era McCartney with his hit rendition of Got to Get You Into My Life, feeling, verve and passion behind him.

Apparently on a life support machine only a few days earlier, his gritty vocal is intact, but dreading a Tommy Cooper like final curtain I left the hall as Cliff's lungs exploded with aplomb.

Still alive on my return, attention moved to next guest Alan Price, who had been a grumpy curmudgeon on his last Brum guest slot with The Manfreds, so I feared the worst.

As it happens he has been asked to write a new national anthem by the Queen, a lady whom, he confided, actually speaks with a Geordie accent.

He trotted out his old chart hits, but a superlative fire burns. His very crowd pleasing humour reminds very much of Likely Lads era James Bolam. Will The Manfred's rootsy sound grace another decade?

It's very likely, lads.