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The Muffins - Manna/Mirage CD (album) cover


The Muffins


Canterbury Scene

4.09 | 86 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Formed in Washington DC, The Muffins had started in 73 as a trio with Newhouse (keys winds) as their leader, and were joined by Scott (winds) in late 74 and recorded a few sessions (which will be later released by Cuneiform under the name Chronometer) but it wasn't until 78 that they recorded their first proper album on a small Wayside Record label..

The least we can say is that The Muffins were heavily biased to Canterbury-sounds as their album is a mix of Soft Hatfield Health crossed with Crimsonic RIO, even if the two don't entwine as much as interact. Generally the two styles succeed each other and much of the greatness of this album is the transitions from one to the other. The first side of the album is made of three excellent tracks: Golden Eyes start as a gentle National North but ends quite abruptly, segueing directly into a free improv (not unlike what Keith Tippett has done with Ovary Lodge) of Hobart, before a Ratledgian electric piano pulls the track into Kent territory, with some of the wildest and most energetic moments of Canterbury ever, throwing chills down your spine as Scott and Newhouse just blow their lungs into their respective wind instruments. Fantastic, terrific, but nothing compared with the 16-min Amelia Earhart. Starting out on an incredibly low percussion intro (much like Crimson's LTIA), the track constantly rolls back and forth between Canterbury, even pulling a spacey Gong interlude midway through.

And this is even without having heard the 22-min opus on the flipside. However for some reasons The Muffins cannot equal the perfect transitions and balance that they had achieved on the other wax slab. Overall, I'd say this album has Canterbury outlasting RIO/improv by 3 to 1, but it won't always be the case later.

The band would then meet one of the major influences Fred Frith (of Henry Cow fame) once he moved to New York and they backed him up in his solo album Gravity and in turn would produce their second album. Getting back to this debut album, this is one of the best US albums of the 70's as far as prog is concerned, leaving JR/F out.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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