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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Nightingales & Bombers (vinyl)

Review by Larry Toering

Manfred Mann’s earth Band is not a prog band, nor is Mann himself a prog artist, but there are some albums I would strongly argue deserve the prog tag, and this is one of them. Which category of prog would I be thinking? AOR prog, where radio rock met with accessibility to concept albums. We all know this speed ranged from Genesis to Journey and whomever, so I would fit this album right into the top of that realm. As for the meaning of the title, you can’t mention it and get away from the evident conceptuality. 

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Track by Track Review
Side 1
Spirits In The Night

The mood is instantly dark, and the Bruce Springsteen penned song begins in Manfred Mann style, and if you follow the lyrics you can see why this is a prog affair. But if you’re thinking Springsteen, think the storyline of the song instead, and give it to Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, you’re on the right track from the get to. And if you like this, you get all there is to be had in a song.

This is an instrumental prog fest for sure, with the keyboards going nearly where bands like ELP and Yes go. In fact, this gives me an opportunity to express the opinion that Manfred Mann is one of the greatest keyboard players in the history of rock. Who knew? Probably his fans dating back to the early 60s did. If you listen to this, you hear a band as good as any at the time or since then.
Time Is Right

This is where things go back into concept and the vocals aren’t the worst you’ve ever heard. The track is essentially based around clocking out at the end of the day. It's another killer track as things progress onward.

Side one ends here. Once again, Manfred Mann puts on a cosmic display of keyboard ear candy on this amazing little number I rate up there with some of the best keyboard work laid down in 1975. This is an over-the-top number I will always consider one of my favorite keyboard numbers.
Side 2


Visionary Mountains

This song begins side two with more of the concept exposed, as the lyrics give some esoteric atmosphere and provide another step in the progress of the album’s music. The excellent keyboard and guitar work dominate here without taking anything away from the story. This is pure musical superiority.

Quit Your Low Down Ways
This is the only part of the album where things get pedestrian, but it also fits the song in every way. I’ve never been able to help but see it as a necessary inclusion on the album, even though it might veer somewhat from the overall concept.
Nightingales and Bombers

The overall concept gets back to business with the title track adding all the more groove and space to a collection of songs you can’t deny have the ability to knock any true music lovers out. The keyboards do the magic here without even trying, as Manfred Mann stays exposed to anyone willing to hear it and acknowledge him as the musical genius he truly is. The title track being an instrumental on an album with some up front vocals is also something to be noted.

Fat Nelly

The album closes with more of that Manfred Mann keyboard flurry which everyone knows from classics like “Blinded By The Light” and others. But it also shines a bright light on the future of rock and where keyboards stood at the time, which picked up more around 1977. If you listen to this you do hear a glimpse of what’s to come with more from the Bruce Springsteen bag of covers. But Bruce Springsteen songs lack the keyboard wizardry of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, therefore my opinion will probably always be that not only could Manfred Mann do it better, he could also take it to the next level on his own.

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