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

CHANCE

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

3.25 | 81 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars We don't guarantee. you will enjoy all of it

MMEB were riding high on the back of a couple of enormously successful singles when they released "Chance". The ingredients were all there for further singles success on the back of this album, but those hits for some reason failed to materialise. Chris Thomson, who had left the band in 1979 but continued to tour and record with them, adds his distinctive tones to the first three tracks here. For the remainder, a number of singers are brought in such as Steve Waller (on "This is your heart") Willy Findlayson ("Heart on the street") Peter Marsh ("Stranded") Dyan Birch ("No guarantee"), and even Manfred Mann himself on "Adolescent dream". When added to the list of five guitarists, including one Trevor Rabin (also associate producer), this gives the album a disjointed feel. It took over a year to record, during which time Manfred Mann himself reports that a lot of time was spent on tracks which were eventually rejected. Others such as "On the run" and "Fritz the blank" metamorphosed into completely different pieces of music from those they started out as.

The opening track, "Lies (through the eighties)" borrows a lot musically from "Blinded by the light", with an uplifting chorus containing an eco-sensitive lyric. There is also what would now be referred to as a "sample" from Joni Mitchell's "Big yellow taxi". Quite why the song failed to find further success for MMEB is something of a mystery, it seems to have all the right ingredients.

"For you" reverts to the tried and tested policy of taking a Dylan or Springsteen (in this case the latter) song and improving it out of all recognition. It really is quite astonishing to compare the raw, unkempt original of Springsteen, with the refined melodic rock performance of MMEB. This is a superb rendition, and one of MMEB's finest pieces on any album.

As soon as Mann starts to sing on "Adolescent dream" it is clear that the unique vocals of Chris Thompson are behind us (for this album at least). Mann may be a great keyboard player, but this already mediocre song is made worse by his ill advised indulgence. "Fritz the blank", which originally had lyrics until Rabin wisely suggested it remain an instrumental, sounds like a Slippermen outtake from "The lamb lies down on Broadway".

"Stranded", which was originally record for "Watch" but rejected, is reworked for "Chance". The track includes radio shipping forecasts, something other bands would mimic, even into the 21st century. Peter Marsh does his best to sound reasonably like Chris Thomson here, but once again the song is adequate, but no more.

"Hello, this is your heart" is a pretty effective heavier piece, with blues overtones and some fine guitar work. Interestingly the copyright date on this song is 1973. "No guarantee" was a completed song which Mann decided he did not like, although he was pleased with the backing track. He therefore used the wording of a commercial guarantee to provide the lyrics, resulting in the track which appears here. This creates lines such as "We don't guarantee any work caused by the failure of the water supply"! It's not actually as bad as it sounds, the song is quite original and enjoyable. "Heart on the street" sounds a little too like what has gone before, lacking anything distinctive by way of melody or lyrical content.

Manfred Mann's sleeve notes are informative, but tend to betray a lack of enthusiasm for the finished product. His closing thought is that the album is "more or less how we intended it to be", although with the revolving door for the vocalist and guitar slots, it is difficult to identify exactly who "we" are.

In all, a decent but rather ordinary album. Had Chris Thompson remained on board for the entire album, it would undoubtedly have benefited from his talents. The fact that he provides the vocals for the two best songs is no coincidence.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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