Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – The Good Earth (1974)

ManfredMann_GoodEarth3.5 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.

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Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – The Roaring Silence (1976)

ManfredMann_RoaringSilence4 out of 5 Stars!

When I was in high school back in ’76, thanks to the mega-hit “Blinded by the Light” continuously popping up on every radio station known to mankind, I finally became aware of this underappreciated U.K. band, one that I soon discovered had released numerous albums before its brush with fame in America. After I purchased The Roaring Silence and realized the three-and-a-half-minute track I had become used to hearing on the radio was actually an edited version from the original seven-minute tune, the lengthier arrangement more progressive in nature, I swiftly dove into the band’s previous releases and unearthed (pun intended) some fairly enjoyable Hard Rock/Progressive Rock albums. Therefore, The Roaring Silence seemed a transitional album for a group looking to expand its audience/fan base. And the ploy obviously worked, at least in my case.

With a seemingly perfect mixture of AOR and Prog-Rock on tracks such as the aforementioned “Blinded by the Light,” as well as “The Road to Babylon,” “Singing the Dolphin Through,” “Questions,” “This Side of Paradise,” the instrumental “Waiter, There’s a Yawn in My Ear” (which obviously inspired the cover art), and “Starbird,” where the second half of the track turns into another energetic instrumental, this platter had me enthralled for weeks. I also couldn’t help noticing how Mann’s unique synth sounds, some snappy and tasty guitar solos from Dave Flett, the often-jazzy drumming from Chris Slade and the melodic bass runs from Colin Pattenden, and Chris Thompson’s instantly recognizable vocals gave the Earth Band its unique style, which continued on to the next album, Watch, another AOR-mixed-with-Prog-Rock corker.

So because The Roaring Silence introduced me to this unique-sounding band, ushering into my life a fairly sizable “back catalogue” of releases for me to explore, this particular well-produced platter continues to remain one of my favorites.

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