The FONTANA years 4 What a Mann was Manfred Mann's first compilation of material from their Fontana sessions. Issued in March 1968, the album appeared at a time when Manfred Mann's commercial appeal appeared to be waning. Between the release of "Ha Ha Said the Clown" in early 1967 and "The Mighty Quinn" in 1968, the group had only scraped a number 60 hit with a jazz instrumental entitled "Sweet Pea." The follow-up single to this, "So Long Dad," failed to chart, as did their Instrumental Assassination EP. In view of these chart failures, it seems rather odd that Fontana chose to issue this album, which features the aforementioned flops and additional B-sides from 1966-1967. Despite the commercial ambiguity of the selection, the album does succeed in showcasing the more offbeat, bizarre side of Manfred Mann. Of interest are covers of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" and Georgie Fame's "Get Away," which highlight the group's jazz credentials. They also send up the Troggs' "Wild Thing" and "With a Girl Like You." Although these latter covers are humorous, they do occasionally slip into self-indulgence. More palatable is the group's tribute to psychedelia with "Funniest Gig" which should, perhaps, have been an A-side rather than the flip to the upbeat but thin-sounding "So Long Dad." As a compilation, What a Mann has its moments, but it's overweighed with instrumental material such as the exceptionally dull "One Way." This bias toward instrumental tracks reduces the opportunity to exploit the songwriting and vocal talents of Michael d'Abo, who was then making a name for himself as writer of the Foundations' "Build Me up Buttercup" and Chris Farlowe's"Handbags and Gladrags," later a hit for Rod Stewart and the Stereophonics.[allmusic] Here
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