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Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Messin' CD (album) cover

MESSIN'

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

3.13 | 96 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars With their third studio release Manfred Mann's Earth Band starts to show some of the traits that earned them the 'progressive' label in some circles. The songs are longer, there's a bit more emphasis on rhythm, percussion, stronger vocals and fatter guitar riffs and a little less on the heavy organ that was especially noticeable on the band's second album. Overall this is their strongest effort yet, although the one somewhat weak point is once again the lyrics which seem rather trite and idealistic today and probably did to a certain extent even in the mid seventies.

I believe this album was originally issued in the U.S. as 'Get Your Rocks Off' and missing the slavery-themed "Black and Blue" which was deemed too controversial for American audiences. And that's too bad because musically it is one of the stronger tracks on the album.

Once again I lament the lack of any comprehensive Earth Band biography to give some context to this album, but clearly Manfred Mann was concentrating on social issues such as pollution, commercialism and racism, as he has done for much of his career. Given the times I suppose the songs were fairly well-received, although as the decade wore on audiences surely became more jaded and embracing of pop, disco and later punk music.

"Buddah" is an interesting tune that foreshadowed the blend of pop, ballads and earnestly- crooned lyrics that would become known as arena rock. Bret Michaels would have been impressed (and maybe he was). Lyrics like "saw Moses in a Cadillac, said hey man why did you come back'?" give this a heavier vibe than some of Mann's earlier pop tunes, but the real star here is Mick Rogers with some wicked guitar work that segue beautifully to Mann's extended organ instrumental. This has long been a favorite of Earth Band fans and I'm sure was a killer track in concerts. "Cloudy Eyes" has a similar vibe and is carried by a guitar riff that is vaguely familiar but that I can't quite place.

The "Get Your Rocks Off" is a pretty straight-ahead rocker and also the shortest track on the album at well under three minutes. It doesn't really fit with the rest of the album and despite this being one of his beloved Dylan covers I'd love to hear Mann's rationale for including it here. It's followed up by the guitar anthem "Sadjoy" that seems to have been made for live performances, especially under the stars in an outdoor arena. Would have loved to have heard it in that environment back in the day.

The other irony of "Black and Blue" being omitted from the U.S. issue is that this is a heavily delta blues-based track with plodding rhythm guitar and a pulsating beat that fit perfectly with Roger's soulful vocals and whiny lead guitar passages. Mann gives the blues a new twist with another extended organ passage in the middle, an eerie thing that slowly morphs into something akin to Edgar Winter's more accessible work. An excellent example of the band's talent for transforming contemporary musical styles into something all their own. A highly recommended track for any Mann fan. The band tries to extend the Delta blues theme to the Dr. John New Orleans celebration tune "Mardi Gras Day", another good tune but again one that doesn't quite fit here.

The album closes with the best options for a radio single, the driving John Prine tune "Pretty Good" that recalls the slightly country-rock sound that characterized much of the band's first album. Oddly though the band did not release this as a single, and neither of the two tracks from the album that did appear as singles charted.

This isn't the best the band would do by a long shot, but it is a fairly solid album with few weak points and at least a couple pretty strong ones with "Black and Blue" and "Buddah", along with a special mention for "Pretty Good". I can't quite call this an essential Earth Band album, although it is close. So a very high three stars out of five it is, and a strong but not overly enthusiastic recommendation.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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