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


Manfred Mann's Earth Band

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars What does the title mean?

A rather up and down offering from the band, at times featuring the strong melodies and inspired cover versions which enhanced previous albums, but sometimes drifting into mundane pop-rock. It is the band's own song writing which appears to be waning most, and thus weakening the album as a whole.

Things get off to a fine start with an excellent cover version of the Jam's "Going underground". The song is slowed down from the original punk anthem and transformed into a Springsteen like power ballad. Since there are no Dylan or Springsteen songs on the album, this track makes a more than adequate substitute, to the extent that it alone makes the album worthy of investigation.

Other covers include an atmospheric version of Joni Mitchell's "Banquet" and a superb version of Eddy and the Hotrods "Do anything you wanna do". While the latter is little more than a slightly slowed down pop based affair, complete with girlie vocals on the chorus, it does boast some excellent guitar work. The weakest of the covers is the Beatles "Bulldog" which is rather mundane.

Of the other tracks, "Rescue" is a reasonable Journey like pop piece, and "Crossfire" ends the album with an instrumental jam along the lines of "Waiter there's a yawn in my ear" from "The roaring silence".

There's little sign of the early prog work of the band here, the songs being almost entirely AOR pop rock. An enjoyable album for those who enjoy the more straightforward MMEB style, but don't go looking here for much in the way of prog.

The album is actually credited to Manfred Mann's Earth Band with Chris Thomson. Whether this was an attempt to entice him to remain with the band, or simply intended to acknowledge his distinctive tones is unclear. What is clear is that his vocals are undoubtedly a highlight of the album. (Thomson actually left the band in 1979, but continued to record and tour with them until this album was released in 1986. Concurrently, he attempted to develop a career with his new band, NIGHT.)

The band appeared to have a Uriah Heep moment during the recording of the album, using no less than three different bass players.

Report this review (#27980)
Posted Sunday, January 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I usually see no point in reviewing discs which I'm not going to give less than three stars,but this one is exception.Fondest memories connect me to Manfred Mann.My first vinyl I ever owned was the 1967 single Ha,ha said the clown!(My dad bought it for me that same year)and I was 10 years old.Over the years various incarnations of Manfred Mann's musical endeavours had my full attention to the point of unlimited admiration for his work.His ability to turn some unremarkable songs to small musical masterpieces I always considered a special talent.Criminal tango is a tipical 80's pop record.Overblown and downright ugly production,pretty cheesy vocals and choruses complete with girlie choirs,make this perfect example of american FM repertoire of the era.And yet,once I put it in my cd player,I can't get it out!It's so infectious to the point that I can't get it out of my head.As a pop record it's almost perfect,Who are the mystery kids and Do anything you want should have been huge hits(they were not),but in terms of majestic prog from Solar fire/Nightingales and bombersera there was absolutely nothing left.It's more in line with Manfred Mann's pop music of the 60's.Going underground?I don't think so!Perfect for the party,though.
Report this review (#157173)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Suddenly after a 4 year hiatus after the mediocre Somewhere in Afrika along came Criminal Tango. Although MMEB have always been past masters at doing cover versions like Bruce Springsteen's ' Spirit in the Night' or Dylan's ' Mighty Quin' their ability to emulate these well diminished with the Police's ' Demolition Man' on Somewhere in Afrika. Sadly CT is full of cover versions. IMHO the bands best work was their own material. There are some good tracks on here like Joni Mitchell's ' Banquet but overall I can't help but feeling cheated after listening to Criminal Tango. John Giblin on bass of Kate Bush and Simple Minds fame is a major plus.
Report this review (#161615)
Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is seriously AOR/pop oriented.

The hey (and prog) days are well over of course, but the band still delivers some (very scarce) pleasant music ("Going Underground") while the worse is mostly present unfortunately ("Killer On The Loose" amongst many others).

I have a special kindness for "Do Anything I Wanna Do" from the Rods. I saw the band (Eddie & The Hot Rods I mean) live in London in February 1977 (I hope I go to heaven.). Ultravox! was the supporting act btw. But I can't really cope with this mellow and popish version. Of course, it is on par with the rest of this album which is not great I'm afraid.

I wonder why the lead singer tries to emulate Springsteen (like in "Who Are The Mystery Kids"). It is difficult for me to appreciate all these synthetic sounds, artificial beats and uniform tone all over again.

At the end of the day, it is a typical album of the eighties. But while a band like Eurythmics was excellent in this style, this album is far from reaching their quality. Here & there some nice solo break (like the guitar one during "You Got Me Right Through The Heart") but this is hardly a consolation.

The heavy "Bulldog" is just above average as well as "Crossfire". A way to save this album from the one star rating.

Report this review (#166535)
Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Manfred Mann's Earth Band in mid '80's caught them in a period when progressive rock was for some years something of a lost battle in music, more and more progressive rock giants taken a diffrenth path obtaining for some pop orentation of their music, MMEB took same way, smooth and polished pop music with some MM specific keybord runnings. From the beggining I want to say that I'm a fan of the band for many years, and I like all their albums, even the weaker ones, has some special moments for me. This one name Criminal tango and released in 1986, must be considered one of their mediocre releases, but to me is a good one and continues the Somwhere in Afrika style, even in places more popier then before. In places the album is more pop then anything, but even this way MM knows how to handle this genre and created some good moments. The return of the great Mick Rogers on vocals and occasionaly guitar is another worthy moments on this album, his voice shines here like in old good times from the mid '70's.Again some covers are made here, like Do Anything I Wanna Do from The Rods (an unknown piece for me in the original form), a Beatles one named Bulldog, but too fague in this contrast in comparation with the early covers of famouses Dylan or Sprigsteen. The album , to some of you sounds dated and to poppy, but is a pleasent and polished pop with many great moments, even the progressive moments are gone almost totaly, my fav from here Banquet or the instrumental one Crossfire are among the best moments of the album. In the end 3 stars for this one, I like it, ok not among his better ones, but still enjoyble now and then. The title of the album is taken as the liner notes of the CD said from a cartoon with same name. MM and his band remeain no matter what one of my fav bands ever.
Report this review (#282559)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.


Report this review (#585354)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2011 | Review Permalink

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