A very, very obscure instrumental funk group from the mid-'70s, Manzel would find much fame decades later once numerous hip-hop producers sampled the drum intro from "Midnight Theme" and, in turn, sent breakbeat collectors scurrying for copies of the original record. During their heyday, Manzel didn't amount to anything more than a pair of 45 rpm singles for the independent Fraternity Records. It was only later, during the '90s, that the group attained notoriety. The drum intro from "Midnight Theme" -- the A-side of the second of the group's two 45s -- was sampled numerous times, and quite famously at that: most gloriously by Prince Paul (on De La Soul's "Plug Tunin'," from the trio's classic 3 Feet High and Rising album), and later by DJ Muggs (on Cypress Hill's breakthrough single, "How I Could Just Kill a Man") and RZA (on Ghostface Killah's debut single, "Winter Warz"). These are just three instances, though. You can also hear Manzel sampled on recordings by Eric B & Rakim and Ultramagnetic MC's among other, less well-known instances. Such famous and widespread sampling made Manzel so renowned among beat heads that Kenny Dope (of Masters at Work) and the Undercover Brother (born Victor Piagneri) dug up the original recordings, remastered and remixed them, and reissued them via Dopebrother Records in 2004. The Midnight Theme CD reissue was quite a package, including a wealth of previously unreleased material as well as some intriguing liner notes by Shad O'Shea, the president of Fraternity Records, the label that originally released the Manzel 45s that would go on to become some of the most sought-after breakbeat records ever.
The Manzel story began quite unsuspectingly. In 1976 O'Shea built Cincinnati, OH's first state-of-the-art recording studio, Counterpart Creative Studios, and recorded some sessions by Manzel. The instrumental funk group from Lexington, KY, consisted of Manzel Bush (keyboards), John L. Van Dyke (guitar), and Steve Garner (drums). Just before the sessions were totally finished, Lieutenant Bush got called off to military duty in Germany, and O'Shea hired some players from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to finish off the sessions. The first of the recordings to see the light of day were "Space Funk" b/w "Jump Street," which O'Shea released on Fraternity in 1977. Two years later, after some further tweaking by Bush, came the "Midnight Theme" b/w "Sugar Dreams" 45, and that was that. Manzel were no more. Bush stayed in the military, raised a family, and left music behind. Twenty-five years later, in 2004, the recordings of Manzel resurfaced with the aid of Kenny Dope and the Undercover Brother. The two wanted to reissue the original, very rare, and quite bootlegged Manzel recordings. However, the Dopebrother guys didn't just reissue the original 45s. They dug up the tapes from the original Manzel sessions at Counterpart Creative, remixed and remastered them, and then released everything on a lavishly detailed CD, Midnight Theme. They also released a "Midnight Theme" b/w "Space Funk" single on 7" vinyl with a picture sleeve reproducing the artwork from a flyer for a Manzel show in the '70s. ~ Jason Birchmeier