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Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Masque - Songs And Planets CD (album) cover


Manfred Mann's Earth Band


Eclectic Prog

2.32 | 69 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

1 stars Let me set this straight: Neither am I one of those who think that Manfred Mann's Earthband "need" Chris Thompson in order to make me ( or any other listener ) happy, nor am I holding an aversion against anything that's "POP". I think that - live in Concert at least - MMEB were truly best with Noel McCalla and, in the end, the return of Mick Rogers turned out to be a big "Plus", I am a fan of his guitar-playing as well as his voice, and while I wasn't too fond of that album when it came out, I was ready to change my mind after I had seen the Earth Band doing a great job live in 2001.

"Well, maybe it wasn't that bad" I thought, "Criminal Tango is better than its reputation as well, in spite of its clinical 80's production !" So I gave it another spin, and lately, in 2011, gave it some more. The 80's weren't that bad - especially not for MMEB. I still rank "Chance" amongst their best, "Angel Station" as well. I think it's rather a coincidence that Chris Thompson is singing on lots of their better albums. "Nightingales and Bombers" did well without him. "Father of Day" on "Solar Fire" is one of their most outstanding moments. MMEB could "rock your socks off" in the old days, and I didn't mind the commercial appeal overshadowing the prog-approach afterwards. In the end, it all comes down to the quality of the songs and how they were performed.

And that's the problem with "Masque". It doesn't rock, it doesn't contain progressive music, it doesn't even work as a commercial pop-album - although I suppose that this is what it was supposed to be. A "Fun Time"... not to be taken too seriously. The re-working of "Joybringer" starts it off with an "okay-listen" - not as good as the old single, beware, but this were the 80's and I want to be fair. It suffers a bit from the clinical production of that time, but it's too good a song to be killed completely. The others - well, they're not, they're taking the album nowhere, all of them lacking inspiration, outstanding performances, memorable melodies. It's spark-less music without direction drowned in a lifeless pop-production. And, as far as POP goes, it's not even fun.

Does "Masque" mean "Faceless" ? Is "Geronimo's Cadillac" any better than the Modern Talking-Track of the same name ? No, not really. It's a mess. And none of the other tracks are making a difference. This album is a bland affair and remains the biggest disappointment Manfred Mann has ever produced. "We're going wrong" - did they know it ? In the end you won't even cling to "Joybringer" anymore, you're going to turn to the old recording, put on "Solar Fire", "Nightingales and Bombers" and start wondering what happened to the Earth Band during the years of huge commercial success. Where joy is absent it simply cannot be delivered ! The lifeless bore of "Masque" is bound to leave behind the listener with exactly the wrong impression: "They're obviously in need of Chris Thompson". What a shame !

I'm sorry for Manfred who, when reviewing other people's stuff in the German "ME" in the 80s for once, refused to give lower ratings than 3 stars. He said that it would be unfair - even if he doesn't like the music. It would be unfair because all of the musicians have put their hopes and lots of work into the recordings. Perhaps he was right and I'm unfair - but even if I'd like to do the same I couldn't hide my disappointment. This is not "Plains Music" ( a far better effort, btw ), this is plain music, plain as plastic, as bad as its reputation. For completionists only. All others: Avoid at all costs.

rupert | 1/5 |


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