Manfred Mann Chapter 3 - Vol 1
Record Mirror - 16 June 1973
MESSIN — Manfred Mann's Earthband — 6360 087
Why isn't this band as big here as it is in America? Take a tip, take time out to really get into this album, you won 't regret it. Manfred's technique in using Synthesiser is truly amazing and for any synthesiser freaks, this album is a must. Mick Rogers must be one of the most underrated guitarists around, can't understand why - his licks are really original and quite frightening
Melody Maker – 14 July 1973
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND: “Messin' " (Vertigo).
A vision of the earth as a parched desert, witnessed by an astronaut from outer space at some point in the near future/// that's the theme of Manfred's new album, at least as far as title track and striking cover design are concerned. “Messing up the land and sea,” is the message and having just seen BBC TV's report on the sub-Sahara, where it hasn't rained in five years, Manfred's message has a chilling ring. Anybody who has read the Doomsday Book, which documents various ways Mankind is building –time bombs into his environment, will not find news that the Sahara is spreading southwards, apparently unchecked at all surprising.
Whether we are responsible for this particular disaster, by atmospheric pollution or interfering with weather systems, only experts could say. But it's been predicted, and it's happening now. It makes the cover painting and the album's release at this time, especially relevant.
The first piece of music is charged with menace and anger. The sound of animals chattering in despair, reproduced electronically, is coupled with an inexorable, marching beat. The dust clouds are looming. Mike Hugg wrote this piece: for a Chapter 3 album that was never released. Mike is no longer in Manfred's band, however, and the line-up now consists of Manfred on synthesiser and organ, Mick Rogers (guitar, vocals), Colin Pattenden (bass), and Chris Slade (Fibes drums). They make a solid, adaptable team with Mick Rogers guitar work outstanding. Mick also sings in a totally pleasing style and he is probably the best vocalist to work with Manfred/ The band seem to have shaken off all ties with the past and found a strong identity for themselves. The production is nicely adventurous, without over indulging in too much gimmickry. There are faint voices and snatches of backward tape during “Buddah," which all helps atmosphere to Manfred's typically aggressive Moog solo. “Cloudy Eye" completes side two. It's an attractive song, with a Focus-style stretched out guitar, melody line. One bow to Manfred's honourable career is the inclusion of a special treatment of a Bob Dylan tune - in this case “Get Your Rocks Off," which does just that. "Sadjoy," a Manfred composition has come exceptional guitar work by Mick, and shifts its moods in startling fashion. It reminded me a bit of “Give Peace A Chance." Same groove, if not the same tune “Black And Blue," is described as an Australian work song, dating back to the days of English penal colonies. The bass sets the right shuffle beat, and Manfred slouches in with some doomy synthesiser. Probably the heaviest blues performance of the year. There is a particularly effective spaced-out passage, with cymbals keeping time behind flutes, and choir before the return to the theme. Any tendency towards gloom is, however, dispelled by “Mardi Gras Day," which must have been a kind of celebration for the end of a series of hard but productive sessions. There ain't no messin' when Manfred's making music – C.W.
Solar Fire (UK Review)
Very powerful, dramatic, vibrant, heavy and unusual. Lyrics are strong and lucid. Extensive backing gives an urgent astral feeling. This is an extremely good band who've grown very quietly into something quite huge. Members are Colin Pattenden, Chris Slade, Manfred Mann and Mick Rogers. The overall sound is very clear and hangs together excellently with definite solar vibes. Exciting - full of life and tension, vigour and unleashed power. They're gonna be big folks. Very good - give it a listen
Solar Fire (UK Review)
Solar Fire is a really fine piece of work. It also goes on record as the first extended piece of ''space' rock that I've ever warmed to. So if you've got a weakness for things Floydish or have lent even a plugged ear to Hawkwind you should listen to this. Less epic, it is very tight, well structured, non meandering music, very well presented. I never really warmed to musical musings on the galaxies and us (especially when there are synthesizers involved) but I like this. Perhaps it's because I can't believe they're serious - just good.
Mann's Nude Fire Drama (Daily Mirror 10 November 1973)
Manfred Mann's Earth Band appeared naked in the streets of Scarborough on Friday when they were involved in a hotel fire drama - a publicist's dream since their new album is titled Solar Fire!
The group had been appearing at Scarborough's Penthouse Club and were staying at the Royal Hotel opposite. Disaster struck in the early hours of the morning and though no-one was hurt, members of the band were to be seen running into the street outside with no clothes on.
A spokesman for them later explained: "Y'see they all sleep in the nude and had no time to grab any clothes when the alarm was raised." No one was arrested.
Melody Maker – December 29 1973
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND: "Solar Fire" (Bronze).
This album seems to come at an appropriate moment, at a time when our eyes are on the heavens, awaiting the arrival of the comet Kohoutek on its journey round the sun. A unique form of skywriting indeed, and it couldn't have been more apt. The album takes planetary/evolutionary theme, the overall concept being one of genesis; that's not as heavy as it sounds, though there are passages of foreboding and coldness, as each track reaches for a mood relative to its title. Generally, it's hard, grinding rock, driven home with finality and conviction: they're a band who feel committed to getting that solid backbeat across, and setting bodies in motion. It's a meaty sound, very compact – concentrated even, like hard tack. There's a lot to chew on. Dylan's "Father Of Day, Father Of Night", the first track, sets the scene and is the tour de-force of the record. Mann, believing Dylan to have wasted the song on "New Morning”, has realised the disguised potential of' this number and vividly underlined its hymnal qualities. It begins with a spatial choir, floating in a void, and from that small seed grows a stately production with a beautiful organ tone and powerful guitar from Mick Rogers. Rogers plays with great clarity and feeling throughout, in taut, pent-up fashion, communicating tension. However, having seen him play live, one feels he's been recorded beneath his full capabilities. He'll be giving a lot more in future no doubt, even though one can say his performance on these particular tracks encompasses all that's desired. "In the Beginning, Darkness" is linked with "Sunfire" where strident guitar breaks leap out and Moog synthesiser is introduced. Mann always using it sparingly and to maximum effect. Nothing gets out of hand. "Pluto the Dog" is a strange, loping instrumental, the lead taken by Moog and percussive organ, and with a barking dog effect that sounds suspiciously like a human imitation. Rather abstruse, but it's the odd track out. Side two is hot and bubbling in the title track, Moog and guitar stirring the cauldron, but is contrasted against the icy impact of "Saturn, Lord of the Ring" and its memorable melody line. And as one might think; "Mercury, the Winged Messenger" is played with celerity, guitar and organ duetting in stabbing bursts of energy. The trip ends on "Earth", which is in two parts. It's probably the most vital, integrated album they've produced to date.
Nightingales & Bombers Reviews 1975 (UK Review)
After a trio of somewhat unremarkable albums for Phonogram, Earth Band seem to draw strength from a new contract with Bronze and set about producing music of a considerably more substantial and interesting nature. 'Nightingales and Bombers' follows both 'Solar Fire' and 'The Good Earth' in its reliance upon the muscular rhythm section of Colin Pattenden (bass) and Chris Slade (drums), whilst Mann (keyboards) and Mick Rogers (guitars, vocals) elaborate with proficient expertise. The version of Bruce Springsteen's 'Spirits In The Night' is unashamedly deliberate, employing lavish electric piano and dense guitar chording, and the song's chorus gains a vibrant dynamic with backing vocals from Doreen Chanter, Ruby James and Martha Smith. Joan Armatrading and Pam Nestor's 'Visionary Mountains' is treated more cautiously, whilst the self-composed material divides into a pair of songs and four instrumentals. Of the latter, the title cut and 'As Above So Below' are the most effective; Mann's use of his electronic keyboard remains sensitive, never overstated, and Rogers provides melodic solos. 'Countdown' and 'Crossfade' are similarly paced, but perhaps a fraction less imaginative. Altogether a hypercompetent offering, and immaculately recorded.
Spirits In The Night (UK Review)
After The Hollies, Mann covers Bruce Springsteen. "Spirits In The Night" is a cut from Springsteen's first album, "Greetings From Asbury Park NJ", telling the story of the narrator pulling Crazy Janey while other characters over-indulge themselves so that there's a good deal of throwing up and passing out going on. Manfred Mann haven't had a hit since "Joybringer" and this could change all that since he and the band have brought out the melody more than Springsteen does. The production, credited to the band, is imaginative and the vocals give the whole thing an agreeable pop-rock ambience.
Nightingales & Bombers 1975 (UK Review)
Technical college rock - that's what this is. It probably appeals to the sort of people who spend three years studying Civil Engineering or Computer Sciences.
"Nightingales and Bombers" is not an unlikeable album; it's well produced (by the band at a place called The Workhouse in the Old Kent Road) with some very tasty stereophonic synthesiser FX; it's occasionally imaginative; and it's very well played.
Manfred himself is excellent, if a trifle cliched, on assorted keyboards, making intelligent and melodic use of the electronic spectrums available. Mick Rogers is outstanding too, with guitar work that is often Fripesque. He does, however have an unfortunate tendency to break into "Little Wing" whenever he can't think of anything better to do. Good as these tow are, they are both prone to self-indulgence - witness how the last track on each side ("Crossfade" and "As Above So Below", a live cut) degenerates into acne-intense boring solo spots.
An honourable mention though for the drummer, Chris Slade, who comes up with a great detuned kettle drum sound for "Time Is Right".
There's one stand out track, a version of Bruce Springsteen's "Spirits In The Night". The grandiose, schizoid arrangement hardly compliments the down to earth lyrics (about urban Americans going out to the country and getting stoned) but the track, an extended workout of their last single, is at least consistently inventive and unpredictable.
Those last two epithets hardly apply to the album as a whole. It's competent but uninspired, and breaks the cardinal rock rule of not printing the lyrics on the sleeve where they are shown up as uninteresting and banal (with the exception of the Springsteen song).
The other main problem is the vocals. Considering the Mann band's previous pedigree in this area (Paul Jones, Mike D'Abo and Mike Hugg) it's surprising that guitarist Rogers is allowed to inflict his insipid and watery singing on what are often good tunes.
Roaring Silence (UK review - Sounds 1976)
Manfred roars into your skull
You can't keep a good Mann down and after a series of interesting but often inconsistent albums, the Manfred Mann Earth Band have come up trumps with their latest album, "The Roaring Silence". If the inconsistent element hasn't been completely buried, there's enough positive thinking and style in evidence to quell any latent discontent.
Since the last album "Nightingales and Bombers", the band have lost guitarist and singer Mick Rogers and have replaced him with Dave Flett on lead guitar and Chris Thompson on guitar and lead vocals. The addition of these two have given the band a much sharper, more aggressive edge and nowhere is this better shown than on the opening track, Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light", the single choice from the album which is deservedly climbing the charts.
Their previous album also included a Springsteen song - "Spirits In The Night" - and the difference in approach between the two sums up the character of the new band. Manfred has always been at his best as an interpreter (remember his interpretations in the Sixties of that other great "future of rock and roll', Bob Dylan?) and he certainly gives Springsteen's song the works, hammering at the central riff to fix it firmly in your skull and offering the rest of the song dressed in style but never obscuring its purpose. And just before the song drives to its climax, Manfred comes out with the simplest piano solo you ever heard in your life, the tune that every kid who ever went near a piano learnt to play - chopsticks. The cheek of it.
As an opening number it's a killer. And to show that it's no fluke the band carry on with Mike Heron's "Singing The Dolphin Through", one of that gentleman's finest compositions. Again the group adheres to the moral that it's not enough to take a song, you must give something to it as well. The haunting chorus line is taken up by some sweet female voices and Flett offers some fine guitar work before Manfred moves into a sonorous chord sequence which is topped off by an adventurous saxophone solo from Barbara Thompson.
The last track on the first side is an instrumental recorded 'live' at the Marquee which revolves around a four chord riff but gives Mann and Flett plenty of room to spin a yarn or two before moving to a fast but slick conclusion.
All the tracks on side two are written within the band and the first of them, "On The Road to Babylon, is definitely the pick of the bunch. I was a bit hesitant at first about the heavenly choir used on this track, but my reservations subsided after three or four listens. In any case the melody line is strong enough to carry the song by itself and there's also some more good guitar work from Flett who bites harshly over some brass arrangements.
The next track, "This Side of Paradise", rather pales in comparison both melodically and lyrically but is kept afloat by instrumental teamwork, as is the following song "Starbird", with its Gregorian sounding introduction. The piano introduction to the final track. "Questions", sounds like a rip off of something, but I can't remember what. Anyway the song itself is something nearer full strength and the treatment is well thought out.
What the album really lacks is one more outstanding track on the second side. I happen to know that the band does a superb updated rendition of their sixties hit "Mighty Quinn" on stage and it's a pity Manfred couldn't have been induced to include it on this album. Still, there's plenty to be getting on with and it improves with every play which is perhaps the best sign of all.
Fielder goes ape (almost) over three re-released Manfred albums..
And he means it, Mann
'Manfred Mann's EarthBand' (Bronze BRON 252)**
'Glorified Magnified' (BRON 257)***
'Messin' (Bronze BRON 261)***
Sounds (UK) 1978
Chuffed by the success of Manfred's last album, 'The Roaring Silence' and the hit single, 'Blinded By The Light', that came from it, Bronze have excavated from the early history of the Manfred Mann's Earth Band from the Phonogram vaults and re-released the band's first three albums.
As an exercise in rock and roll archaeology it's praiseworthy enough and it uncovers some interesting moments – mainly instrumental – but the three albums tend to reinforce the view that 'The Roaring Silence' and its predecessor, 'Nightingales And Bombers', marked the real beginning of the group's fruition. You should make sure you have these two before you start exploring the Earth Band's origins. 'Manfred Mann's Earth Band' and 'Glorified Magnified' both date from 1972 with 'Messin' emerging the following year.
The first album, 'Manfred Mann's Earth Band', doesn't really hang together and it's clear that the group were still settling in. At the time, heavy metal rock was in its hiatus and the group catch a mild dose on some tracks, notably 'Captain Bobby Stout'. Even Dylan's 'Please Mrs. Henry' is given a ponderous, chanting treatment that sounds more like Edgar Broughton than Manfred Mann.
But Manfred does demonstrate his skill in finding songs to suit his own purpose with Randy Newman's 'Living Without You' (even if it is given too much of a 'pop' treatment for my taste) and Dr John Creaux's 'Jump Sturdy'. And he turns in a couple of worthwhile compositions of his own – 'Prayer' where the sharp instrumental break compensates for any inadequacies in the melody, and 'Part Time Man' which is given a rather Lou Reed like delivery by singer Mick Rogers.
There's more purpose about 'Glorified Magnified', particularly in the instrumental department which starts to reveal what is now one of the group's strongest points – their ability to work around a simple theme, linking their individual skills to a corporate output and producing some intelligent but exciting rock music.
Indeed their arrangements are frequently better than the original theme and Manfred's skill in making the most out of what are often pretty mediocre songs (and a lot of them are his own compositions) is remarkable. 'I'm Gonna Have You All', 'Wind', 'Meat' and the album's title track all illustrate the point well.
There's also an improvement in the way the songs are built up to effective climaxes revealed on 'Look Around' (by Slade) and 'One way Glass' (by Mann). The obligatory Dylan track 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue', is treated more in the way that Mann used to adapt Zimmo's songs back in the Sixties.
Messin' continues the band's progression and the title track, an ecological diatribe written by ex-Manfred Manner Mike Hugg, is given a solid working with some neat electronics from Mann and some stirring guitar from Rogers later on.
Manfred's own keyboard playing shows an increasing breadth with several jazz elements creeping back into his solos as well as some increasingly atmospheric synthesizer playing. And the Dylan track (don't worry Manfred, Springsteen is just around the corner) is the little known 'get Your Rocks Off' (fancy Dylan writing a song called that!) which turns out to be a chanting, raucous 12-bar.
These three albums are Bronze's contribution to the Manfred Mann back catalogue. EMI will shortly be doing their bit when they release a compilation of his early pop hits.
Angel Station (UK review) 1979
Most of us potter through life without any clear aims or objectives. Somehow we imagine that having heaved the cat out of bed and wiped sufficient marmalade on the morning toast, we'll get through the day without too many mishaps.
Manfred Mann is not like us ordinary mortals. He sets out to do more with his life than remove marmalade from cats. he decided a long time ago to make the best damn pop records money and brains could devise, even if it meant going to the Master - i.e. Bob Dylan - for inspiration.
Old Manfred has proved over and over again that he has an alchemist's touch. "You Angel You" done in the Manfred fashion would, I'm sure, wring praise from the Inscrutable One. It is one of the outstanding performances on this vibrant, cleverly wrought album by one of the strongest ever versions of the Earth Band. It's also the last album to feature Chris Thompson on vocals - he's quitting to form his own band - and with a generosity not often detected among musicians, Manfred offers a tribute to his past help and wishes him well on the sleeve.
The sheer attack of the band is immediately evident from the opening piece, "Don't Kill It Carol", which features deep, probing vocals from Chris and guitarist Steve Waller, and stabbing crystal-clear piano accents from Manfred. A voice-bag adds to the atmosphere of menace, and the arrangement immediately establishes the level of intensity maintained throughout. With Geoff Britton on drums and Pat King on grumbling bass, the Earth Men play like men possessed.
Not all the material is wonderful. "Platform End" for example, while containing intriguing effects on the 4-6-2 Pacific steam synthesizer, tends to flag after several choruses. Quite frankly, and not to put too fine a point on it, the piece is dull, dull, dull.
But "Angels At My Gate" which opens side two restores faith. It has a spooky flavour heightened by Britton's rumbling drums, and this continues into "You Are - I Am" a piece which recalls the haunting "Rainbow Chaser" by Nirvana, if anyone can remember that far back. I think producer Anthony Moore's sequencer must be responsible for some of the effects here, but there are sounds of human activity too as odd voices break through the veil of sound. It's reminiscent of some of the Beatles' more experimental work and will repay many a listen.
I commend this highly to all who appreciate a mixture of sincerity and skill. Just listen to Graham Preskett's violin solo on "Rain" and the curious "Resurrection", which concludes with what sounds like a totter shouting "any old iron", followed by a burst of laughter.
Sounds 1980 - Mann Alive - Chance Review
Quite how Manfred Mann can split up his Earth Band, spend more than a year recording tracks with numerous guitarists and vocalists and come up with his most consistent album since 'The Roaring Silence' is something I'm still trying to work out. The sting in the tail is that the new Earth Band is identical to the one that last toured Europe and Britain.
The search for a replacement for Chris Thompson who was supposed to have left after the last tour has led to Steve Waller, Willie Findlayson, Peter Marsh, Dyan Birch and even Manfred himself stepping into the vocals booth, not to mention Chris himself who came back for three tracks. The guitarists included former Earth Band member Mick Rogers, Steve Miller, Geoff Whitehorn, Robbie McIntosh and Trevor Rabin who co-produced the album with Manfred.
All of which makes the continuity of 'Chance' even more surprising. Only Manfred, bassist Pat King and drummer John Lingwood appear on every track but if you listen to the album without running through the list of names that lent a vocal chord or a plectrum you'd be hard put to it to discern any differences between the tracks except occasionally among the vocalists.
What it finally proves is that Manfred's perception of his Earth Band and his canny choice of material are the two choice ingredients that give the band its character. His constant search for the right song for the band have frequently led him to the Dylan and Springsteen catalogues and this time it's Springsteen who provides one of the album's goodies, 'For You' getting the heavy but bracing treatment both 'Blinded By The Light' and 'Spirits In The Night' have already received.
As a chance, 'For You' is as gilt-edged as they come, but there are a pack of others that stand equally tall on the album. 'Lies (Through The 80's)' by one D Newman (whoever he may be) is a brisk, driving rocker that oozes MMEB from every pore while "Hello I Am Your Heart' and 'Heart On The Street' are both low and heavy but with more than enough panache top prevent them from ever sounding laboured.
Even Manfred's own songs - not usually regarded as among the high spots of an MMEB album - have sprouted forth with a flourish. His collaboration with Mike Heron on the steady, powerful 'Stranded' is one of the album's gems. 'On The Run' , which he wrote with Tony Ashton and Florrie Palmer, has a cunning rhythmic pattern and a compelling vocal line that adds up to a distinctive character, and while the three 'unaided' songs don't match that class they are less fragmented than similar examples you could pick from either of the last two albums.
Trevor Rabin's contribution to the album has been to provide a tougher basic core to the tracks and discipline to the embellishments that are Manfred's stock in trade. The result is more direct than usual without losing any of Manfred's inimitable style. If you've decided to pass Manfred by as an ageing has-been that's your problem. If you haven't you will get a kick out of this.
Somewhere in Afrika (UK Review)
Over the past two or so years, everyone has jumped on the African bandwagon, and at this late date it would be easy (and cheap) to accuse Manfred Mann of belatedly doing the same. But far from ripping off the Burundi drummers, High Life or Kwela, Mann is trying something far more ambitious, along the lines of Peter Gabriel's recent espousal of not only African sounds but also the African 'cause'.
"Somewhere in Afrika" is a loosely-grouped 'concept album' (No wait! Come back!) dealing with the subject of the Bantustans. These are sex-segregated work camps and townships in which blacks are forced to live, where often a wide and family are placed in a camp hundreds of miles from the husband's.
Slimmed down almost to a one-man band, with vocal help from R&B singer Steve Waller and long time Earth Band frontman Chris Thompson, plus bass and guitar from Matt Irving and percussion from John Lingwood, Mann is here attempting to mix his traditional rock style with electronic versions of African music and. as is his wont, cover versions given a different context by their inclusion on the album. Of these, Al Stewart's "Eyes of Nostradamus" works well in its new setting, but Sting's song for Grace Jones, "Demolition Man", and Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" sit uneasily in the new framework.
Mann's own songs, however, employing expatriate black musicians and singers, often work well, sometimes even deserving comparison with Gabriel's cross-cultural 'fusions'. Forget his 'BOF' standing, it's an admirable effort.
RECORD REVIEWS – The Argus (South Africa) 2/83
***** Excellent **** Very good *** Fair to good **Weak * Dud
***** SOMEWHERE IN AFRIKA (Manfred Mann's Earth Band).
Like a shot out of the dark comes this Manfred Mann album, just about the most brilliant I have heard so far in the 80s.
With both African and electronic music growing in popularity, Manfred Mann, always something of an eclectic, has sensitively and intelligently grafted the two together to create an exciting, driving, throbbing masterpiece.
Probably South Africa's most famous rock 'n roll son, Manfred left this country in the early 60s for London, became one of the artists in the forefront of the so-called British invasion of America and, among other achievements, was praised by Bob Dylan for doing the best cover versions of the songwriter's songs.
All that might already be known. This album is a greater achievement than any of the Earth Band's previous efforts and if Manfred Mann does nothing else he can feel proud.
As he has shown before, Manfred has a clever knack of working other people's songs into a different context. Here he uses Al Stewart's Eyes Of Nostradamus and Sting's Demolition Man brilliantly ... and certainly Bob Marley's Redemption Song, as it has never been played before, is a tour de force.
Mann's own four-part Africa Suite is the highlight of the album. It starts with a piercing synthesiser sequence introducing a verse of Tshotsholosa and thereafter moves through various moods, sometimes lilting rhythmically, sometimes driving hard, always right.
Manfred Mann's EarthBand – Budapest Reviews
Three reviews of Budapest from the archives below, perhaps it wasn't as disappointing as some thought at the time.
Mann Delivers – Budapest Live (The News – Australia April 1984)
Budapest Live (Bronze) by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, sub titled The Best Of Manfred Mann's Earth band Live, this is the result of a performance last year before 30,000 Budapest fans.
Sound quality is impressive for a live album, particularly the vocal work which comes through clear and strong. Most important though is the band's ability to deliver on stage in tight, bright fashion – a talent that only comes with hard work and considerable thought.
The eight tracks include the real biggies along with lesser-known but deserving MMEB numbers. Davy's On The Road Again rolls along at a sparkling pace, Mighty Quinn gets a heavy edge that gives it a different but not unattractive sound, and Blinded By The Light sounds OK but has been done better. All up though, Budapest live is a consistent live effort that should find favour with the fans.
Live Budapest (Advertiser Newspaper – Australia April 1984)
Recorded in Hungary's capital during a sell-out European tour, this is a useful 'best of' collection. It includes the powerful Mann versions of Springsteen's Spirits In The Night, Sting's Demolition Man, plus his own hit renditions of Dylan's Mighty Quinn, Davy's On The Road Again, Lies and Blinded By The Light. That means the sound is cohesive, which is not always the case in compilations which can span a decade of an artist's very varied work.
None of Mann's recent tendencies to experiment are given scope here: this is a crowd-pleaser with howling guitars and hot organ flushes most of the way. One of the peaks is Chris Thompson's reading of the late Bob Marley's Redemption Song, backed mainly by a stark acoustic guitar. As Arthur, from Minder would say, quality, my boy always shows.
Budapest Review – Melbourne Herald 29.3.84
Review by Bruce Dickinson (Thanks to Mick Maloney)
THERE'S quite a difference between Manfred Mann, Manfred Mann and Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The first is Manfred Mann the man, the second Manfred Mann the pop band, the final metamorphosis is the man's present band.
I'll start again: Manfred Mann (born Mike Lubowitz in Johannesburg) formed a group in the early '60s and called it Manfred Mann.
It made high-class pop such as `Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" and "Pretty Flamingo". Singer Paul Jones was the frontman for keyboard-playing Manfred. Mann added the "Earth Band" bit to his self-titled title when he put together a new, heavy rock outfit in 1971. That's the band that's still going.
It's best known for the 1976 hit with Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light."
Now Manfred Mann's Earth Band has released an excellent live album, Budapest (Bronze L38153). It amounts to a "greatest hits" collection - with some concert vitality thrown in for good measure. It was recorded in April last year in Budapest, the end of a three-month European tour.
With Chris Thompson's powerful voice at the helm, Budapest captures the hard-working spirit of the group through eight great songs. "Spirits in the Night," another Springsteen track, opens the set. Big Bruce's other great legacy is, of course, here as well, the 'Blinded By The Light" classic sounding less-stilted than the studio version.
Second guitarist Steve Waller takes over on vocals for the Police's gutsy "Demolition Man" before handing back to former New Zealander Thompson for "Davy's On The Road Again", "For You", the chanting "Lies (Through The 80s)", Bob Marley's plaintive "Redemption Song" and a blast from the Manfred Mann past, the timeless "Mighty Ouinn."
Manfred Mann's Earth Band is one of those groups that tend to hang around in the background, seldom making a big impression. This record comes as a surprise - a top-class piece of playing that condenses Manfred's mob into a stunning 40 minutes.
Criminal Tango (UK Review 1986)
After fifteen years and the release of twelve albums, 1986 sees Manfred Mann's Earth Band signing up with 10 Records - and releasing their thirteenth album. Called Criminal Tango, the album is the culmination of a years studio work at The Workhouse Studio in South London with the new Mitsubishi digital system.
Although older fans will remember Manfred Mann as the leader of a band in the sixties which nurtured the careers of Paul Jones and Mike D'Abo and which spawned hits such as "Ha Ha Said the Clown", "5,4,3,2,1" and "Mighty Quinn", Manfred has seen far more success with the Earth Band throughout the Seventies and into the Eighties using his ability to successfully interpret and enhance cover versions. His greatest worldwide hit was a version of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light".
"Criminal Tango" (taken from the title of an animated cartoon) contains 9 tracks, including an eerie rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Banquet", Lennon and McCartney's "Bulldog" and Paul Weller's "Going Underground". Manfred is joined by Chris Thompson another outstanding vocalist, on this recording, who sang on the Springsteen song, mentioned earlier.
In fact Mann has given Thompson double billing on the cover of the CD - and he rightly deserves it. Thompson has one of those instantly recognisable voices, gravelly but also very subtle, and with Criminal Tango it's been put to the right use.
Using the Mitsubishi tape system has given this collection of nine tracks a very clean sound, with plenty of room for Mann's keyboard experiments to filter over and across the other instruments.
Although Manfred Mann has fallen out of favour with the chart makers these days he's still managing to interest enough fans and followers - enough to get another recording deal together following the demise of Bronze Records.
And with each new musical project he turns another corner revealing a different talent and ability.
But with every conceivable piece of keyboard equipment at his disposal you could expect him to disappear into a sea of sounds. Not so; he uses them more as a subtle overlay and addition to Thompson's superb vocals and the rest of the bands adept musicianship.
This is the first Manfred Mann CD to become available, but let's hope that some of the classics like "Nightingales and Bombers" and "Angel Station" are also released. But for the moment, Criminal Tango is certainly a very enjoyable disc to listen to.
Odds & Sods Review
Review by Bruce Eder (Allmusic.com)
This is one of the best conceived box sets to come around since the format made its bow with the Eric Clapton and Allman Brothers packages from Polygram at the end of the 1980s. The problem with most boxes is that the producers can never be sure of the direction in which they should go, especially with acts that have a long history and a lot of hits — do they represent all of the single A- and B-sides, or plunge into the vaults head first and fill it up with material that will be best known to hardcore fanatics? Luckily, in the case of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, there's a lot of history but not a huge raft of hits to deal with, just some extremely important ones, so a direction that didn't compromise either a box set's potential broad appeal (such as it was) or its hardcore fan appeal was available, for anyone so inclined and motivated. Covering a musical history that crosses 30 years, each CD has a distinctive thrust and content that separates it from the discs adjacent to it, yet it all manages to hold together as a vital resource for appreciation of the band.
Disc one is devoted to the transition between Manfred Mann Chapter Three, the short-lived Manfred Mann/Mike Hugg-led break with the original group Manfred Mann, mixing jazz and rock, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band, the much louder and harder-rocking ensemble that followed. "Happy Being Me" was the debut single of the Chapter Three band, while "Travelling Lady," which goes into King Crimson-esque saxophone territory, was off of the group's debut album; both tracks, like "Messin' Up the Land" which follows, were written by Mike Hugg. The latter track is the original Chapter Three rendition, completely different from the version that Manfred Mann's Earth Band ultimately released on their third album two years later — it opens a brace of previously unissued tracks from the abandoned third Manfred Mann Chapter Three album, which was thought lost until Mann began working on remastering his library; it stands somewhere midway between the late-'60s soul-inspired pop of the original Manfred Mann group and those funky, jazzy jams that King Crimson started getting into circa 1972 with Mel Collins and company.
The rest is far more diverse, representing most of the unreleased Earth Band album Stepping Sideways, among them a killer version of Dylan's "Please Mrs. Henry" as a low-wattage blues piece, "Ashes to the Wind," in its original version, the stunning acoustic rocker "Holly Holy," and the Moog-driven "Ain't No Crime" — any one of these cuts is almost worth the price of admission by itself, and together they make this first disc essential listening, not just for Chapter Three or Earth Band fans but also for anyone who ever took the '60s version of the group seriously, for as much of the break as any of this was with the "Chapter Two" band, it's all of a piece with what Mann and Hugg started out to do in 1963-1964. Just to fill a couple of gaps, the platter ends with the loud, rootsy "In the Beginning" from Solar Fire, the classically derived "Joybringer" in its 1973 version, and the folk-inspired single "Be Not Too Hard." Disc two is made up of a mixture of hits and outtakes, using the single version of "Blinded by the Light" and "Spirits in the Night" in its 1976 re-recording, as the jumping-off point for 13 songs mostly derived from or intended for the group's American-released albums, including a worthy busted single of "Quit Your Low Down Ways." There's not a less-than-perfect note struck anywhere here, and the mastering is impeccable, at an audiophile standard.
Disc three is intended as a showcase for the various singers who have graced the lineup, which means listeners get a lot of Chris Thompson — it opens up with the group's live rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," which is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever generated by any group associated with the name Manfred Mann; listeners also get Mann's "African Suite," with its collective vocals, and a rare Mann vocal on "War Dream." Steve Waller and Shona Laing are featured on the pounding, synth-driven single version of "I Who Have Nothing," and for thoroughness, contrast, and just plain welcomed self-indulgence, Laing is also featured on the single version of "Redemption Song" on the same platter, which also features Mann's synthesizer in profusion. Disc four carries listeners up to 2004, and showcases Mann's work of the 1990s and beyond, usually credited to him — he hasn't changed an iota since the 1960s, to judge from the contents, still crossing pop, jazz, folk, world music, country, and anything else he cares to throw into the mix and hooking it all around stunning melodies and arrangements. The mastering is impeccable throughout — state of the art for the first decade of the 21st century, with a bass on some of the latter material that can break an apartment lease if you're not careful — and the annotation is as thorough as anyone can ask for, complete with footnotes and appendices.
This is a four-CD set that's a serious fan's dream come true — and not just serious fans of the Earth Band, but also, as it happens, of the 1960s Manfred Mann group who want to see the rest of the story (the stuff's not that far removed from the pop/rock group's overall history) — but also represents the hits and the nicely accessible singles, so that the casual fan ready to take the plunge can work from shallower to deeper water, as it were. In a word, it's perfect — sadly, the fact that this box is devoted to a kind of cultish act like Manfred Mann's Earth Band means that many people will never get to hear it; maybe only one percent of the number of people who spring for, say, the 30th anniversary edition of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, or three percent of the number of people who buy hits compilations of the '60s incarnation of Manfred Mann, may ever consider buying this set; but the ones who do will get their money's worth and then some. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of multi-disc set that nobody should mind spending money on, precisely because it is excellent work and should be heard and should be bought.
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND Unearthed: The Best Of 1973-2005
Review from Australian Magazine - Thanks to Mick Maloney
Formed in 1971, Manfred played a progressive style of keyboard dominated rock far removed from his string of sixties pop hits. Known here for their radio staple classic 'Blinded By The Light' from 1976, this underrated outfit had a handful of international hits.
This DVD is a bit like a Rage special. All clips, but little in the way of extras. You can soak up 20 tracks from some excellent quality early live clips to a swag of promotional videos leading into the eighties.
Most of the material is between 1973-1986 with two interesting clips from a 1991 Manfred, solo project with American Indian and African themes. It jumps to 2005 for the current touring lineup's 'Mighty Quinn'. More compelling, heavier and fleshed out, this song has been their encore since inception and bears little resemblance to its original pop format.
Great songs such as Springsteen's 'For You', Sting's 'Demolition Man' and European favourite 'Davy's On The Road Again' keep this set running at a high standard. The live power of stage favourite 'Martha's Madman' from 1983, interwoven with original concert cartoon footage, and Manfred's brilliant multi keyboard solo brings the level of his virtuosity up to the best guitarists. The versatility of the moog synthesiser seriously challenged the rock guitar. The quality of archival footage varies, more like video than enhanced DVD but if you like 'Blinded' take this varied journey with its extensive, informative booklet and 107 minutes viewing. Unfortunately it is only found in specialist shops including Basement Discs and Missing Link in Melbourne or Music Without Frontiers in Hobart.
*** (Cohesion )
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND 40th Anniversary Box Set
Creature Music (2011)
The rather large parcel dropped off at GRTR! Towers was like Christmas come early and turned out to be this substantial box set. All too often in these hardened times, reviewers have to make do
with edited promos or a smaller version of a larger edition. It's very frustrating. So it was a pleasant surprise to receive this box and at least we can do the review justice.
I've always been interested in Manfred Mann's Earth Band although I've never collected their albums. This box set, celebrating the band's 40th anniversary, is really all that is needed as it scoops up all their official releases and adds a couple of bonus CDs. Add in an illustrated and informative booklet, a little book of Manfred's 'thoughts' and a poster and you have a very comprehensive package. But perhaps the biggest shock is that this box contains 18 official releases, from 1971's self-titled debut to 2004's '2006'. I never thought they were so productive.
The band still go out on the road albeit with a frequently updated configuration and this is marked by one of the bonus discs, recorded live in Ersingen, Norway in July 2011. The mainstays are Manfred and his trusty lieutenant Mick Rogers on guitar. Through the years, the band have always attracted good singers and the present incumbent is Robert Hart who has sung with Bad Company. Previously the great Chris Thompson was the frontman, taking over vocal duties from Mick Rogers in 1976. He returned briefly for the last studio album.
Many will know the band through their hit singles. Especially the cover of 'Blinded By Light' and the lesser hit 'Joybringer' (included here on the mop-up disc of alternate takes and singles called 'Leftovers'). But there was much more to the band than that, and don't even think about Manfred Mann's earlier incarnation with Paul Jones, although 'The Mighty Quinn' does get an airing on the live discs ('Budapest' and 'Mann Alive').
The core albums to immerse yourself in are 'Messin', 'Solar Fire' (1973) and 'The Roaring Silence' (1976).
The Earth Band were essentially a gritty rock band (grittier live) who straddled prog and who sometimes bring to mind Wishbone Ash and sometimes Argent, not least in the Hammond keyboard flavours. If they had a 'weakness' it was their penchant for cover versions which tended to loom larger than their own material. Never more so than on 1986's 'Criminal Tango'.
So from the early albums we get Dylan covers 'Please Mrs Henry', 'Get Your Rocks Off' and 'Father Of Day, Father of Night' and that Springsteen song 'Blinded By The Light' which - like Hendrix 'All 'Along The Watchtower' - is considered a definitive cover. But the band also put their own twist on classical themes. 1987's 'Masque' was a realisation of an idea to re-arrange Holst The Planets.
'Somewhere In Africa' (1983) and 'Plains Music' (1991 - featuring a trimmed down Earth Band with Noel McCalla on vocals and Barbara Thompson on sax) were inspired by Manfred Mann's South African homeland. Normal service was resumed for the follow-up 'Soft Vengeance' released in 1996, although this was distinctly AOR-slick sounding, a bit Mike & The Mechanics-ish.
Arguably, the band were best in the live situation allowing them to stretch out instrumentally although the warts and all set released in 2009 ('Bootleg Series Vols 1-5) doesn't really do this full justice as a result of inconsistent recording quality and repetition, although that is remedied here by the inclusion of the more recent Norwegian gig.
Although there is a whole disc of 'Leftovers' interestingly this excludes the bonus tracks that appeared on the late-1990s reissues. So the repackaged studio albums (in large card sleeves) merely replicate the original track listing. For completism collectors are also directed towards the 4-CD set released in 2008 'Odds & Sods: Mis-takes and Out-takes'.
Overall, though, this is a wonderful collection and it gives a proper and much-needed perspective for the band and all that is missing is a button badge and facsimile ticket.
Review by David Randall
A Collectors' Guide to 40years of MMEB Boxset
+ A Review of the Chapter Three albums
By Barry Winton.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Same – 1972 **
When the jazz/rock experimentation, of the short lived Chapter Three, failed to entice the record buying public into further investigation; the cost of touring with a large ensemble soon took its toll. An aborted third album was then shelved for many years. Now at a loose end, Mann soon returned to his commercial roots, assembling a new line up bringing in vocalist/guitarist Mick Rogers, bassist Colin Pattenden and powerhouse drummer Chris Slade. Despite touring Australia with Free and Deep Purple, this new project was initially aimed squarely at the commercial rock market, in an attempt to, somehow or other, restore his flagging popularity. A fully recorded album, the McGuinness Flint sounding, Stepping Sideways was at the last minute cancelled; although several tracks therein were now re-recorded, with his trademark mini moog, for their first album.
Finding their way here is strongly evident to the discerning listener, as to be expected it's still fairly experimental. Good in parts but a trifle directionless although Manfred's mini moog was now thankfully in place. The two singles lifted from this album: Dylan's 'Please Mrs. Henry' and the radio friendly cover of Randy Newman's 'Living Without You'; the latter of which went on to become a minor hit in the States. Amongst the stand-out tracks here was Captain Bobby Stout, though not that memorable here, would soon wrap itself in concrete and hit hard as a live performance; and, 40 years on, it remains in the live set. Elsewhere the 'spacey' Tribute, was much later on sampled by Massive Attack.
Glorified Magnified - 1972****
A gigantic leap forward in just seven short months; in a very short space of time MMEB had vastly progressed in leaps and bounds. One could immediately tell from hearing the results of their vastly underrated second album that something very exciting was about to happen. Glorified Magnified, kicks off with the infectiously catchy hard biting 'Can't Eat Meat'. 'One Way Glass' would be resurrected with an Earth Band twist from Chapter Three: Volume One. Elsewhere the set comes across sounding like a dynamic new progressive band, who were red hot and ready to burn, but in the meantime they were really enjoying themselves. Complete with a very clear musical direction with great synthesizer work, crunching bass playing, thunderous drumming, and hard biting killer guitar riffs. On the MMEB Richter Scale, this resonates very highly.
Messin - 1973 ***
The title track of this album, dates back to the unreleased third Chapter Three album, now re-worked into a classic MMEB ten-minute epic. Although extremely good in parts, I don't think that Messin' works quite as well as its predecessor, although it does contain my personal favourite track of all in 'Buddha', which most deservingly went on to become a terrific live number. During this productive period, they were extremely hard working, and had twice that year toured the States with, on one, Savoy Brown and Status Quo; and, on another, with Uriah Heep and Rory Gallagher. On the strength of their reputation alone they had now become a storming live act, who had quietly turned into something quite huge; which most deservingly assured them an ever expanding fan base, and a healthy booking sheet. It would now only be a matter of time.
Solar Fire – 1973 - *****
After three albums recorded with Phonogram; their fourth single Joybringer had at last bought MMEB to the attention of the record buying public, who rewarded them with a number 9 chart placing. Manfred then signed to his former manager Gerry Bron's rock-inclined Bronze label. What happened next was a stroke of absolute genius; five months on from Messin, the Earth Band were now at their zenith; they had now existed for just under two years; the time had now come to un-leash their masterpiece with Solar Fire. From the heavenly choir to the crashing cymbals of its delicious opening salvo Father of Day (re-worked from Dylan's 'New Morning') from a minute filler; MMEB effortlessly transformed it to epic proportions, they mustered up a ten-minute masterpiece – which, undoubtedly, along with 'Blinded by the Light', three years later, is the most respected track from the band's 40 year career, 39 years later it's still a great favourite with the fans and is still regularly played on radio stations all over the world. Above all MMEB albums, it is my opinion that, Solar Fire still stands up as their best offering; everything about it is warm and majestic, with some breathtaking mini moog playing. From the spacey gatefold sleeve, you are holding a real balanced ensemble, where everything fits. It is also of my belief that had this been recorded by a more fashionable band, it would have sold by the truckload.
The Good Earth – 1974 ***
Following up an album like Solar Fire was not to be easy. Nearly a year in the making, the Good Earth still stands the test of time as a fine little album, which was promoted with a great novelty; giving away a square foot of earth in the Welsh valleys. Though the album failed to dent the charts it was still, nevertheless, warmly received; and this novelty idea, though causing on-going debate and speculation, was a really nice, eco-friendly idea. For the third time in succession they kicked off the album with a ten-minute epic; a reworking of 'Give me the Good Earth' by Spooky Tooth's Gary Wright. Also, 'Launching Place' and 'I'll be Gone' were both penned by Phil Rudd (of Australia's Ariel), elder brother of AC/ DC's drummer Phil. Musically in some ways it is a bit of a throwback to the first album, but regardless the musicianship is faultless, and there are some rich jazz-fusion elements.
Nightingales and Bombers – 1975 *****
Amazing as it is now to believe; back in the day, though bands would seem to be constantly out on the road, they still found the time to rehearse and record new material, which was a far more authentic way to keep the creative juices flowing. To my mind this is the second best album from the first, and fondly remembered, line up. It has already been well documented how the band came up with its clever title, but more significant was that Manfred had now turned his attention to the song writing abilities of Bruce Springsteen, and was amongst the first to cover his work. Manfred has said before in interviews that this was a difficult record to piece together and that the band were thrashing around in the dark, which was altogether surprising as the final results here tally up to a work of excellence. The band are on fire. Chris Slade is playing superbly. Although this was not strictly speaking a commercial sounding album, half vocal and half instrumental which gels very well.
Five years and six albums down the line, guitarist Mick Rogers was getting a bit too big for his boots and had developed a massive ego since he played bass with Frank Zappa for a couple of gigs. Following its release, in August '75, a band meeting was called and Mick was asked to leave. I would, at this point, like to be completely honest and say that his successor, Chris Hamlet Thompson, was the better vocalist but as far as I'm concerned when Mick Rogers was holding the fort, it was a musically better band. To my mind this will always be the definitive line up.
The Roaring Silence - 1976 ****
This album heralded the beginning of an exciting new era for MMEB. Mick Rogers departure had left some big shoes to fill. Two new members were soon recruited. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Thompson had lived in New Zealand for many years; and upon his return to the UK had recorded a single with a band called Central Park Reunion; unsuccessfully auditioned for another of my favourite bands, Argent; at the time he was appointed as the new Earth Band vocalist he was working as a cleaner in a film studio. Lead guitarist Dave Flett was a 24 year old van driver, he was one hell of a fiery player though in a different style to his predecessor.
It was, undoubtedly, the enormous success of the re-vamped line-up's first single, 'Blinded By the Light' that catapulted them from relative obscurity into a major headlining act. This was a very different sounding Earth Band album, thus far this was perhaps their most commercially accessible offering. My favorite tracks, however, was 'Babylon' and the astonishing 'Gentle Giantesque Starbird'. The production was excellent throughout and both newcomers shone in blazing glory.
Watch – 1978 ****
Here comes the most popular MMEB album of them all. Long standing bassist Colin Pattenden, quit to be replaced by Pat King, who had played with everyone; from Lulu and the Luvvers through to, the impressive sounding mid 70's band, Shanghai. Watch was recorded over a fairly lengthy period. Every track works a treat here and it was, most deservingly, very well received on the continent. Back on home base it gave them a third and final hit single with Davy's 'On the Road Again'. Most memorable of all here was the magnificent 'Martha's Madman' (which was voted by fans as their most favourite song) and, due to countless requests, 'the Mighty Quinn' was finally resurrected, Manfred finally giving in ten years after it was No.1. Sadly, all was not well within, following a sold out British tour Manfred summoned a band meeting; and promptly dismissed three members.
Angel Station – 1979 ***
Nine albums in seven years, not a bad feat; just as Solar Fire was a hard act to follow, so was Watch. I always liked the Earth Band's instrumental improvisations, so to my mind this album was a slight let-down and found it very overproduced. If the previous line-up had held together long enough to record a third album, it would have been very interesting (I, also, really missed Chris Slade). Though, admittedly, this album did grow on me after several listens; in all honesty this is not amongst my favourites, though it does contain some very rich elements. Amongst the stand-out tracks 'Don't Kill it Carol', 'You Angel, You' and 'Angels at my Gate' have always been much requested live favourites.
Pat King had paid a visit to his employer and complained that the in-house fighting between certain band members had nothing to do with him, so why should he have to lose his position. Fair enough!! So he was told to seek out the replacements. Drummer Geoff Britton from Wings was recruited along with a popular South London pub-circuit musician guitarist/vocalist, the late Steve Waller (a most splendid chap); sadly there was one major hiccup here, Steve brought with him a major drink problem which led to, at the end of the Angel Station tour, his being given the boot. Although, he did later return to the fold for a further two tours.
As the sleeve notes here suggest, this was going to be Chris Thompson's final Earth Band album; thankfully it wasn't, though he did become more of a part-time member, he continued to tour with MMEB for a further 7 years.
Chance – 1980 ***
Geoff Britton never toured with MMEB and, prior to Angel Station, he was replaced by John Lingwood; though not quite in the Chris Slade class, he was a very fine player who also looked the part and fitted in very well. Chance was a bit of a confused beast, it was slightly schizophrenic in places, and saw the line-up slimmed down to a core of three. Though it starts well, with 'Lies Through the 80's'; Chris Thompson, who returned for the first three tracks, excels himself on the Springsteen cover 'For You'. The album also featured an array of guest vocalists and sessions musicians (including Mick Rogers, Steve Waller, Robbie McIntosh, Kokomo's Diane Birch and associate producer Trevor Rabin) and the results were well, considering, not too bad. The material from Chance actually worked far better in concert; even if it was not amongst their better offerings. I still consider this to be an admirable enough effort, if not particularly memorable.
Somewhere in Afrika – 1983 *****
Upon first hearing this album for the first time, I really didn't know what to make of it; I did mention this to Manfred, who glanced at me with questioning eyes, it was hard to give him a detailed explanation, but the answer (30 years on) is that I knew very little about apartheid or African music, and well let's face it, this was a completely different sounding project. The vocal duties were split three ways between New Zealander Shona Laing, Chris Thompson and Steve Waller who actually gives a very good performance here. Pat King was demoted to roadie, his place was taken by bassist/keyboardist Matt Irving who made up a hat trick of Scottish musicians to have served the Earth Band.
Somewhere In Afrika was the last of the truly great MMEB albums, in many ways I will view this offering as their magnum opus. It is also my opinion that out of all their releases this stands as their most underrated. A colossal amount of work also went into producing this. When I eventually saw the live shows the whole thing came to life, that's where it all began to make a whole lot of sense. It somewhat angered me that Paul Simon went on to score such high points with Graceland, whereas Somewhere In Afrika, unjustly, remained obscure.
Budapest – 1984 *
First things first; 'live albums' should mean 'live' albums. This was one of the most un-live albums that I have ever heard, this was clearly a shambles. Following the excellence of the recent Afrika tour; this was, if anything, an inferior representation to the live shows. I really have not got the slightest idea of what this was meant to achieve. It sounded like it might have been recorded live; only to then be appallingly edited; and, worse still, parts of it then re-recorded – most odd and, therefore, is altogether best forgotten.
Criminal Tango – (with Chris Thompson) 1986 **
Following the Afrika tour, Steve Waller and Matt Irving both quit, Mick Rogers had now, thankfully, returned after an absence of seven years. MMEB's final single for Bronze, 'Runner', should have given them their fourth big hit, all things being equal; but, as we all know, although it found success in the States, back in old blighty it went largely unnoticed. After a couple of years off the road they re-emerged on Ten Records which was a subsidiary of Virgin.
OK: we had the memorable Afrika album and now it was turn for the disposable American one. Despite the line up now being bolstered to full strength, sadly what we got here was a near disaster. Out of all the MMEB studio albums, I put this one right at the bottom of the pile, it doesn't stand up at all, and sounds poorly dated. When I look back to songs like 'Father of Day', 'Quinn' or 'Blinded', they are all the definitive versions. I don't know quite what the great Mann had in mind when he attempted to record 'Underground', 'Bulldog' and 'Do Anything You Wanna Do', as he clearly didn't have a clue of what to do with any of them.
Masque – 1987 **
I'm going to be fair here, as there really is no way that I could ever view this as an Earth Band album because it is not. I recall only too well having a conversation with Manfred at the Workhouse studio; he told me that if this album was not successful that it would be the end of the Earth Band. Upon hearing the results, I'm sad to say, there was no way that Masque would have an appeal outside the immediate fan base. As a viable commercial product it was doomed to failure, as there was no way they could tour with what was on offer here, the material doesn't hang particularly well and comes across sounding more like a contract filler. Chris Thompson was no longer on hand, and was replaced by songwriter Denny Newman and sessions singer Maggie Ryder. Mick Rogers sang lead vocals on three tracks.
It has been said that Masque was a sequel to Solar Fire; well, perhaps it was intended to be. 'Joybringer' was resurrected though re-worked, it was inferior to the '73 original, elsewhere Manfred returned to his jazz roots on Charlie Parker's 'Billy's Bounce'. But the helm of the album rests on the 'Planets Suite'. After 15 years on the road, the creative juices had finally dried up and the Earth Band quietly slipped away from public view.
Plains Music – 1991 ****
Four years on and Manfred had his thinking cap screwed on tightly. Came up with a sheer delight; OK anyone expecting to hear instrumental tangents with hard-biting guitar riffs and extended moog solos will find little comfort here. But judging Plains Music on its merits; on releasing a record inspired by American tribal chants from the turn of the century, would appeal to fans of Deep Forest and Incantation it succeeds gloriously on every count; this was essentially Manfred following his heart with no commercial expectation. It is simple, and beautifully crafted, throughout and like Somewhere in Afrika, the listener can tell that a huge amount of love and care was put into producing it. Manfred penned the entire album. Veteran saxophonist Barbara Thompson plays magnificently throughout. Vocalist Noel McCalla also made his debut here. Manfred was so pleased with his services that as a result, when the Earth Band was finally resurrected, McCalla was most wisely called upon as the new front man.
Soft Vengeance – 1996 **
After a nine year layoff, MMEB were back with Chris Thompson and Noel McCalla sharing lead vocals. I would again be very honest and would say that overall Soft Vengeance was an enjoyable comeback album and was most certainly better than Tango and Masque, where Vengeance fails is that it took far too long to put together and was far too overproduced and lacks continuity. As I have already stated; the ambience of early releases like Glorified Magnified and Solar Fire, arose from that special magical quality and enthusiasm that one hears in material recorded live in the studio with little overdubs. 25 years on things were now done a lot differently. The material here is overall fairly satisfactory but nowhere near enough guitar riffs or mini moog for my taste, and lacked any real identity. I get the distinct feeling that Manfred was trying far too hard, which perhaps could account for him losing his way a bit on this one.
Mann Alive – 1998 ****
Thank God that this was nothing whatsoever like Budapest. This was a proper live album and the performances here live up to expectations, plus Chris Thompson had now returned to the touring band. This is also a great way for newcomers discovering the magical quality of Earth Band gigs. What we have here is a generous smattering of tracks on a double CD set; recorded on the Soft Vengeance tour. Mann went to town here on re-discovering his great love for Bob Dylan, so were treated to no fewer than five covers. Overall this a greatest hits live set. It's good fun, punchy, action packed, and well worth a blast.
2006 – 2004 ***
Strange title, still I actually like this album, though it is not to everybody's taste. It was, thankfully, recorded in the old fashioned way, in the sense that the material was prepared and ready to go. It is, overall, downbeat and miserable and in many ways it is a throwback to the 70's, but yet has a kind of charm about it. Mars – again from the Planets works splendidly, elsewhere Manfred himself stepped into the vocal booth for the amusing spoken-word tale of Frog. I really don't know, for the life of me, why 'Sexual Jealousy' was re-recorded? Surprisingly very little of 06 was played live which is more the pity, as there would be a lot here that could well have pleased
Leftovers (from the box set) ****
Here's a great little assortment, though in different forms most diehards would have already heard. But what makes Leftovers so special is the inclusion of three buried treasures that showed up again after donkeys' years. According to the story; a young lady, named Andrea, happened to be on the same train as Manfred; when he got off he left some tapes behind; she most kindly passed them on to Nigel Stanworth whom she contacted via the Platform End website. What a great idea.
Live in Ersingen – 2011 ****
Well with the recruitment of new singer Robert Hart (ex Bad Co) who replaced Pete Cox last year, a man who most certainly knows what he's doing, MMEB sound like they have never been away; a great all-round performance here.
Manfred Mann: Chapter Three, Volume One (1969) ****
One of Manfred's greatest fans once told me that he thought that this was the worst phase in Manfred's 50yr career in music; I would contest that statement, and would categorically state that this was an extremely brave and rewarding exercise.
OK, first things first; this album is very much the end of one era and the dawn of another; which saw Manfred continuing his long-standing association with Mike Hugg, who had now swapped his drumsticks for an electric piano and was now the third phase of Mann's new vocalist. Despite his not being a particularly good singer his contribution worked very well. MMC3 were fleshed out with auto-flautist Bernie Living; drummer, Craig Collinge; but the best new recruit was bassist extraordinaire, Steve York (from underground band East of Eden). Craig Collinge was previously with Procession, a Mike Hugg produced band, which also featured future MMEB guitarist/vocalist, Mick Rogers. Despite critical acclaim, former fans voted with their arms folded, and clearly didn't approve of his new Jazz/Rock direction.
43yrs on, Volume One is today a hot collectors' item; with Mint copies easily commanding upwards of £100. The first 2 tracks 'Travelling Lady' and Snakeskin Garter' are fiercely sampled by DJs; but, for my money, by far the best track is 'One Way Glass', which saw Mann in the vocal booth for the first time and featured some fantastic finger work by Steve York, which has gone on to be something massive. The middle brass section has been featured several times on sports programmes and, in more recent years, has been the theme of the hit 2010 film Kick-Ass. Those who are unfamiliar with this album would be wise to investigate, you won't be disappointed.
Strange to think that just 4months earlier The Manfred's had waved goodbye with 'Ragamuffin Man'; you couldn't associate the 2 incarnations of the band, as they were nothing alike.
Manfred Mann: Chapter Three, Volume Two (1970) ***
Despite being issued in a fantastic, and eye-catching, double sleeve; my opinion is that this is an inferior follow-up that lacks the charm of the first album. All the big guns are thrown in on the opening track 'Lady Ace' which features some fantastic brass improvisation, courtesy of Hair's Musical Director, Derek Wadsworth, and Mike Gibb also makes a valued contribution. Mann/Hugg had now expanded the line-up to a 10-piece; this was more improvised than the previous album, but lacks innovative direction. Apologies Manfred, but 'Jump before You Think', despite one of your greatest fans being a progressive rock fanatic, is perhaps the worst example of self-indulgence I have ever heard; for the life of me I don't where that sax solo fits in. 'Happy Being Me' made a fine single, but hearing going on and on for 16 minutes tended to get annoying but 'Virginia' the albums closing track, is excellent; and the brass section are clearly enjoying themselves and sound as if they're on great form. I'm not trying to be Simon Cowell, but honesty is a virtue; and I personally think, that if one were to take the best tracks from both albums you could have had one really good one. Incidentally, Steve York later played with another of my all-time favourite bands the fantastic Vinegar Joe, which made their debut supporting MMEB at the Marquee Club.
A third and final album was taped but left on the shelf for many years; though some of the tracks were eventually released as part of the 'Mistakes and Out-takes' box set. If Creature Music, would release the album in full; I would be delighted to review it, along with Rational Anthems.
PS: I have taken each and every album into firm consideration, and there is no 'artiste infallible'. I have wanted to do this for a long time, and hope that I have judged each album on its individual merits, without undue bias. Everyone will have their own opinions, of course, but these are mine.
Whatever you think I hope you enjoy them all the same. I will never alter my opinion of the horrible Budapest.
Eat your heart out Grand Funk Railroad Humble Pie and Deep Purple.
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