Whereas Almendra brought an Argentine identity to the sound and Los Gatos the electric guitar, influenced by Cream Manal brought the blues to Argentina’s rock conscience. Their early years where spent in regular gigs at the mythic “La Cueva” club, birthplace of the first generation of Argentine rock groups.
|Manal is an Arabic name that means “can get hold of it” and there is well known phrase is Arabic that includes this name: “sa’ab al Manal” which means very difficut to reach.
In 1968 after their demos being rejected by multiple record labels, the band approached long time friend and producer Jorge Alvarez. In order for Manal to get material recorded, it was necessary to build a new label. So Alvarez teamed up with Pedro Pujó and created the Mandioca Label, event of high historical importance as it would become the first label exclusively dedicated to Argentine rock.
Under the fledgling label, Manal released their first two singles in 1968. But their consummate moment came at the 1969 Pinap Festival. On the back of their near daily performances throughout the year, the group’s tightness was apparent. Argentine rock lore says delirious fans at the festival that day ended up doing choruses and singing along with Manal’s three members, who resorted to vocals as their bass and drumbs ‘broke’ down from overuse.
Following this event Manal released the full-length blues rock debut in 1970, self-titled as it was customary in Argentine rock at the time. It was certainly not at the level of English-language counterparts but it is nevertheless an enjoyable listen, and as such the album did well. This prompted RCA to approach the band with a contract, which Manal accepted. Their major label debut El León (1971) proved not as successful as Manal, but was a decent record.
By 1972 however, musical tastes in Argentine rock had changed. Acoustic Argentine rock was on the verge of its explosion, and heavy rock had become the dominant blues oriented rock form, with rock first and blues later. Blues-rock was not favored, and Manal coudn’t make a transition. Furthermore their third album in 1972 was poor in material. It would all lead to the break-up of Manal in 1972, the worst ending of all the three trilogy bands.
However, history would eventually offer the band redemption, and a more deserving send-off. In 1980 Argentine rock was caught up in a revival period of rock from the late 60s, with Almendra successfully reuniting. Producers asked Manal to do the same which they did, and even produced one last LP in 1981’s aptly named Reunión.
Instead of the almost ignominious early 70s exit, Manal performed well-attended last concerts in major cities across Argentina which led to a live album, and corrected what would have otherwise been an unfortunate way to end an encyclopedic entry on one of the fundamental groups of early Rock en Español.
Today they are credited with bringing the grittier form of blues-rock to Argentine rock, and few at the time could foresee how influential many years later this would be when the suburban rock explosion took place in the mid 1990s.