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Manfred Mann's Earth Band - The Roaring Silence CD (album) cover

THE ROARING SILENCE

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

3.82 | 183 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars While leisurely perusing the well-stocked PA site I came across this album and not only remembered that I have a pristine vinyl copy of the LP in my record collection but also that I had no clear recollection of what it sounded like. That situation was quickly resolved over a few days time. As far as I am able to recall there were two principal reasons for my purchasing the album back in '76. First, I (like millions of others at that time since it skyrocketed to #1 as a single) was enamored with the band's slick version of Bruce Springsteen's overlooked "Blinded by the Light." Second, the cover art is nothing short of fabulous with the wide open mouth where the ear hole should be on the front and the group's individual members presented in eye-catching relief on the back. I often bought LPs for the artwork alone and have never regretted it.

"Some brimstone baritone/anticyclone rolling stone/preacher from the east/says dethrone the Dictaphone/hit it in the funnybone/that's where they expect it least." Those are just some of the exquisite, subliminal lyrics from The Boss' "Blinded by the Light" that drew the populace into the album's opening song, as well as the energetic, prog-styled treatment that these guys gave it. Manfred's inspired organ and synthesizer work, Chris Thompson's distinctive vocal and Dave Flett's edgy, passionate guitar lead all added up to make this tune an irresistible radio hit worldwide. The idea of melding the verse and chorus into a round during the build up to the closing was a great stroke of genius, as well. "Singing the Dolphin Through" follows and it's an eclectic ditty with a very siren-like, beckoning hook line. It suffers a tad from a less-than-steady tempo but that might be a result of sloppy editing more than anything else. Singer Thompson's tinny guitar lead doesn't fit well at all but the track is rescued by the entrance of guest Barbara Thompson's saxophone solo that gets progressively ferocious and wild as the song fades out. The tune is definitely an odd duck but quite enjoyable overall.

The live recording of Mann's instrumental "Waiter, There's a Yawn in my Ear" is a surprisingly jazzy number that features some standout synthesizer moments and an interesting, dynamic arrangement. These musicians could play, no doubt. "The Road to Babylon" has some fine peaks but too many valleys to overcome the fact that it comes off rather contrived. It starts brilliantly, though, with female madrigal voices luring you in but soon it turns into a disappointing lite rock affair that suffers mightily from Flett's brittle guitar tone on the lead (Steve Howe he ain't). The tune cuts off abruptly and that makes me wonder why they didn't do that a lot earlier on this nearly 7-minute song, thus saving the listener from the excruciating solo that goes on and on.

Next comes the nondescript "This Side of Paradise" where the cool synthesizers are the only engaging asset. The obviously Stravinsky-influenced melody and impressive structure of "Starbird" is an unexpected treat. Chris and his backing vocalists are outstanding at the onset, then the tune takes a sharp left turn into a strangely-timed, speedy jam where a heated battle between the synthesizer and the two guitarists breaks out before the original melody tastefully works its way back up through the mix for the finale. If there's a track that should have been extended, this is the one. The album closes with a well-written rock ballad called "Questions." Drummer Chris Slade and Manfred penned a poignant little air here that features some admirable keyboards and a full chorale backing behind Thompson's vocal. Unfortunately they inject yet another unnecessarily harsh-toned guitar solo that rudely disturbs the peace but the simple, brief coda helps to restore some semblance of serenity.

To summarize, I'm glad I gave this forgotten LP some overdue listens. It ain't too shabby. Not many bands were putting out this kind of imaginative material in '76 when disco was starting to infect the airwaves and that's a plus. They also shined a light on the gifted songwriting talents of Mr. Springsteen, demonstrating that he was more than just a New Jersey rocker born to run. These boys, indeed, turned an even larger audience "on, sonny, to something strong." 2.7 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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