Manning Overboard

Over the past year or so, I’ve gotten into some real esoteric music. Since my refusal of buying over the Internet means that sometimes I can’t find anything that strikes me at the local Record Hut, I have begun buying the weirdest thing I can find in the store at any time, just to test my musical limits. It has led me to a few great discoveries and a lot of things I’ll never listen to again, though I do feel enlightened after giving them a try. I recommend trying it sometime just to expand your musical horizons and to explore some different influences.

The album below, though I got it from a record company to review, is the sort of thing I would pick up during one of these binges. Made by a well-known engineer and producer, it is nonetheless one of the weirdest rock records you are going to find. I am not sure if I will ever listen to it again, but it blew my mind when I checked it out and it was a very, very interesting listen.

Check it out:

Terry Manning – Home Sweet Home
Sunbeam Records

Best known for his production and engineering work with groups such as Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, George Thorogood, Molly Hatchett, most forget Terry Manning was also a well-respected musician and sideman around Memphis for many years before making his name as a producer par excellence. Not that you’d know it from this album, however. Thrown together as a bit of a joke by Manning and some of his Memphis cronies for Stax Records, the album has a decidedly non-commercial air about it which, paradoxically, has led to it becoming a much sought-after holy grail of sorts for music aficianados.

Thanks to the folks at Sunbeam Records, one of the best reissue labels around specializing in late ’60’s early ’70’s vintage music, this album has finally been allowed to re-enter the marketplace. Those looking for transcendant rock music to blow their minds will not find much on this record, however. By making this album more for a lark than a serious statement, Manning ultimately shortchanged himself no matter what the interest is by seekers of rare discs. While Manning more than had the chops to come up with something infinitely more weighty and meaningful, the slapdash efforts to throw songs together smacks more of rushed desperation than anything else.

Begun as the result of a studio prank on the vocal group the Box Tops by taking their song Choo Choo Train and altering the backing tracks to sound like a psychedelic freakout instead of the regular blue-eyed soul the band was known for, the president of Stax Records heard the resulting acid-trip version of the song and asked Manning to record a whole album in that style. Hence, this record filled with overdone (waaaay overdone) pastiches of soul, country, rock and rockabilly. Though selling hardly any copies, the album eventually passed down through the hands of collectors and has become quite notable in reputation.

Weird and eccentric, the album nonetheless stands on its’ own as an artistic statement and there are some interesting moments, but the feeling of the album being somewhat rushed permeates the tracks. That most of the songs were recorded at the end of other artist’s sessions when there was spare studio time left over speaks a lot to how little priority was placed on this album. But, there is one cooler than cool artifact on this album that may blow your mind! This album featurtes a cover of a Beatles tune made before the actual Beatles tune was even released. It seemed that the Beatles had leaked some demos of their song The One after 909 before it was finished and the Manning version on this album contains a version of the song before the Beatles re-arranged the composition. In fact, some of the lyrics Manning uses in the song were later excised when the Beatles recorded their version.

Those interested in quirky rock music unashamed by lack of quality and purpose may find this record a lot of fun. Big Star collectors (it marks the first recorded appearance by guitarist/songwriter Chris Bell) and Beatles aficianados may appreciate its’ weirdness as well. It’s obvious Manning is a talented musician and maybe one day we’ll see a solo album proper. Until then, do with this strange artifact what you will.

I will leave you with this: don’t be afraid of any CD in the racks. It’s only fifteen dollars and it won’t kill you. Try something new, try something different and expand your taste. And, if you don’t like it, send it to me.

The Music Nerd Knows…… stuff!