3.5 out of 5 Stars!
Like on most albums from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, the music is often difficult to pigeonhole. Although many music-related magazines both past and present (as well as websites of the modern age) categorize the majority of the band’s various releases as only Progressive Rock, I still find that sole tag fairly inaccurate and misleading. When first purchasing albums by this group in the ’70s, based on this lone genre description mentioned in various magazines, I had originally expected music along the lines of Yes, ELP, Genesis, or Gentle Giant, for example, the bands I considered “true” Prog-Rock acts of the same era. What I discovered on albums by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, however, were basically tunes of melodic Hard Rock with only a smattering of Progressive Rock tinsel scattered over a handful of tracks.
The Good Earth is one of those albums I snapped up during my early days of record-buying, my teenaged self expecting one type of music, but getting another—or rather, finding a merger of styles instead of pure, out-and-out Progressive Rock. On this album, the majority of songs are basically melodic Hard Rock at their core. The Prog elements appear only periodically, thanks mostly to Mann’s always-impressive keyboard work, some overall atmospherics, and by the inclusion of more experimental passages on vocal songs such as “Earth Hymn” and “Earth Hymn, Part 2,” as well as “Be Not Too Hard” and “Give Me the Good Earth,” plus on the fantastic “Sky High,” an instrumental track where the musicians really cut loose with jazzy, Prog-Rock madness. But on other tracks, “Launching Pad” and “I’ll Be Gone,” the Prog-Rock elements are virtually non-existent.
Therefore, I remember being a bit disappointed at the time of purchasing this collection—not too horribly, thank goodness, since I did like the band’s overall sound, regardless if it wasn’t what I had expected due to those contemporaneous magazine articles and the few and insufficient album reviews I’d read. Nevertheless, I had vowed all those years ago that if I ever got the opportunity to write my own album reviews in the future, I’d do my best to properly designate genres and provide more substantial information so that potential listeners would know exactly what to expect when investigating any unfamiliar material.
Regardless, my thoughts of genre designations aside, The Good Earth ended up becoming one of my favorite collections from the group’s “early period,” prior to the band hitting the big time in ’76 with the mega-selling The Roaring Silence.