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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

The Roaring Silence

Review by Gary Hill

I don’t know if Manfred Mann’s Earth Band one hundred percent belongs in the category of progressive rock, but I think it can be argued to put them there. Certainly a lot of music in the 1970’s was influenced by prog (and carried element of it). MMEB’s sound had a very large quantity of prog in the mix. I’d have to say that The Roaring Silence is probably the band’s best-known disc. It could arguably be considered their best, too. I’ve always had a special place in my heard for this one, and I’m betting if you give it a shot you will, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Blinded By the Light
These guys really seemed to have a way to turn Bruce Springsteen songs into something so much greater than the pieces they began as. I have to say that I’ve always had a major distaste for Springsteen (I know, probably one of five people on the planet who can’t stand the guy’s music), yet I love MMEB’s renditions. This is no exception. They turn the cut into a proggy classic, and this is one most people should have heard at one time or another. It’s a great way to lead off a strong album and features some killer instrumental work. It also has some powerful vocal performances. All in all it’s a definite winner.
Singing the Dolphin Through
This has a sedate, techno prog ballad approach and is quite a pretty piece of music. In some ways this reminds me a bit of something that Vangelis might have put together. They turn in a more rocking arrangement later, and then shift out from there into a treatment that feels a bit like the more mellow segments of the cut that preceded it. As they carry it onward they pull in some killer jamming on this extended piece of music.
Waiter, There's a Yawn In My Ear
This instrumental reminds me in some ways of Emerson Lake and Palmer, but only a bit. You could also hear some Alan Parsons Project in the mix, perhaps. Overall this is a very cool piece of music that’s one of the highlights of the disc.
The Road To Babylon
Choral vocals start this off, feeling a bit like a cross between a female church choir and Gregorian chant. They carry the track for the first 40 or so seconds, then some of the most powerful instrumental textures of the whole disc take over. As this powers out into the verse it is dramatic and evocative. I’d have to say that of all the songs on the album this rocker is my favorite. It has a bit of a texture similar to the best of the Electric Light Orchestra, but there are other sounds in the mix as well. Those female vocals return along with the rock arrangement later. The killer instrumental segment later, while pulled down in terms of intensity, is simply awe-inspiring. You just don’t get a lot better than this track.
This Side Of Paradise
Keyboards launch this and carry it for a while. The cut is a bouncy, sort of rather playful number. It’s entertaining enough, but not one of my favorites on the disc. Still, the segment where it turns toward space is a nice touch, as is the funky nature that permeates a lot of the sounds here.
Starbird
More Gregorian type vocals lead this off. Eventually this gives way to a smoking fast jam that has equal parts of ELP and King Crimson in the mix. This is another scorcher and highlight of the disc. It’s amazing how much fiery music they can pack into a three-minute (well, just a little over) song.
Questions
This is a somewhat mellower track, particularly in the balladic introduction segment. It’s quite pretty and evocative, and overall pretty gentle. It’s a nice break and stands well on its own.
Spirits In The Night
Another of the group’s covers of Springsteen, this track is more moody and bluesy. It’s also another strong one. I really like the vocal textures on this one a lot. The strings on this one are a nice touch, too.
Blinded By the Light (Single Edit)
As you would guess this is a shorter rendition of the lead track. I like it fine, but prefer the full version.
 
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