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

CRIMINAL TANGO

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

2.47 | 45 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars So let's be honest in acknowledging that Manfred Mann's Earth Band was not exactly a vibrant and creative musical force by 1986. Then again there weren't many 60s or 70s survivors who were still relevant in the post-punk MTV era. Still, this was a particularly uninspired and lifeless effort by the band (and I use the term 'effort' loosely).

Mann dropped this deuce three summers after the release of 'Somewhere in Afrika', the last album from the band to receive any measurable critical notice or chart status when it managed Top-100 in both the U.S. and UK while the obscure Ian Thomas cover 'Runner' (which was only included on the U.S. version) managed a Top-40 ranking in the U.S. and in Thomas' native Canada. There's really nothing on this album worth calling out or including on any best-of list for the band. The only noteworthy bit of trivia is that original guitarist/vocalist Mick Rogers returned to the fold with this release, for reasons that are probably only really understood by him. He plays guitar but does virtually no singing this time around, Mann preferring to leave that task to Chris Thompson who had been delivering pretty much all the band's vocals for a decade at that point.

As with most of the Earth Band albums Mann employs quite a few cover tunes, and once again most of them are somewhat obscure and seemingly random. One exception is 'Going Underground', a number originally composed by Paul Weller as a clever and driving pop tune for his band the Jam, a group of Mod throwbacks that were given the times inevitably lumped in with late 70s punk scene. The magic was really gone for the Earth Band by 1986 though and Mann seemed to have lost his knack for breathing life into other people's under- appreciated music. This one is pure 80s gloss and overproduction, losing the point of the lyrics with an ironic pop delivery, too-casual vocals and about three minutes of fluff that should really have been cut out.

'Who Are the Mystery Kids?' is another miss, a tune coauthored by Mann and the eclectic 60s icon Garland Jeffreys. The song tells the tale of street kids in the inner city, half-breeds and hustlers being presented amidst Mann's bouncy keyboards, Rogers' bland guitar work and a dull drum sequence. I've never heard the Jefferys' version but would imagine it was much more soulful and raw than this glossy rendition. I have heard Joni Mitchell's 'Banquet' though, and Mann doesn't even come close to her folksy vibe with his version. Once again the rhythm and keyboards are too slick, too postured and too bland.

Denny Newman followed up his vapid 'Lies (All Through the Eighties)' from 'Chance' with another MTV-ready number called 'Killer on the Loose', a song that musically sounds almost identical to the three that preceded it on the album, as does the Eddie & the Hot Rods cover 'Do Anything You Wanna Do'. The band did manage two original songs on this album, the somewhat catchy but pure pop-inspired "Rescue" and the closing 'Crossfire' (name five bands who didn't have a song titled 'Crossfire' in the 80s by the way). Otherwise everything on this record is a cover and most are weak ones at that including an almost New Wave version of the late Robert Byrne's 'You Got me Right Through the Heart' and a truly appalling interpretation of the Beatle's 'Hey Bulldog' that is only slightly justified by Rogers' least-sucky guitar performance on the album.

The band would manage a couple of modestly decent records after this one before they called it a day, but at the time this really did seem to be the end of the line for Manfred Mann's Earth Band. I can't recommend this album to anyone, and although I'm sorely tempted to rate it as only a one star effort I'll show deference to the fact it was a minor hit in Germany and slap on a second star, but can't say as I feel much conviction it deserves even that.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |

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