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


Manfred Mann's Earth Band

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3 stars This 14th Earthband Album sounds like a typical Pop album - but better. It's not Manfred Mann like in earlier years, but it sound okay to me - even if i'm a Hard and Heavy-Fan. Three Stars for this very soft and mild, but friendly album...
Report this review (#28177)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Mann and his Earth Band were not very active any longer. Almost ten years between their latest studio release ("Masque") and this one. What else can seriously bring the Mann?

One is impressed with the opening number: "Pleasure And Pain": the melody is beautiful, vocals very performing and there is a superb guitar work, like during their hey days. It took a while to the Mann to release a song from this caliber. I'm glad that it finally came out.

The second good piece is the poignant instrumental "Adults Only". Fine keys work, aerial mood and pleasant melody. There won't be many tracks like this one unfortunately. The energetic "Miss You" can be integrated into the few good songs from "Soft Vengeance"as well as the pop "Nature Of The Beast" and its Springsteen-oriented vocals. This closes the package of decent songs available.

I am not at all as laudatory with their cover of the Stones number "Play With Fire". The original rock feeling has smelt into a messy pop/reggae-ish oriented tune. Press nextT. As the album flows from one song to another, one has to recognize that the fire of the opening track has been extinguished quite abruptly.

It is a long and poor procession of cheesy tracks ("Nothing Ever Happens", "The Price I Pay"), mellowish ones ("Shelter From The Storm", "Tumbling Ball") and the funky/disco "The Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy" and "99 Lbs" are not my cup of tea to say the least.

I am also quite perplex when I listen to "Wherever Love Drops" (part 1 which lasts for less than a minute and part 2 which is double this length.). As you can see, this album has not very much to offer (except the brilliant opener and a couple of good songs).

If I do the math, it makes four good songs out of fourteen (23 points out of seventy on my scale). I'll upgrade it to two stars but be warned, we are not facing a good album.

Report this review (#168174)
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This one has low ratings but it's not that bad really, as long as you accept the overproduced AOR nature of the music. A bit like Mike [Rutherford] And The Mechanics, perhaps? It is far less progressive than, say, Roaring Silence, but not without certain originality that rises it high above the mass of 80's/90's American-style pop. There are some interesting little keyboard- oriented instrumentals, and worth mentioning is the pair of 'Wherever Love Drops' with a hilarious story about a tiny dwarf succesful with women. Vocalist Chris Thompson is in a good shape here. Excuse the most commercial tracks and enjoy this album without prejudices, not expecting anything very progressive.
Report this review (#426527)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A gap of almost 10 years betwen this one Soft vengeance released in summer of 1996 and Masque from 1987, diffrent decades, diffrent aproach , musicaly. This album sounds mature, mid tempo almost all the time, fine arrangements, very skilfull musicians, but not in the way of show of all the time how strong and good I am, subltle arrangements define this album. I realy like this album, ok is quite diffrent then the predecesor Masque, this is more on rockier side, the progressive elements are all over the place but melted in other way then before, almost a calm album , toying in places with AOR sound, but not very proeminent like other bands. After so many years some of the fans and not only could not expect very much from the master MM, but here it is a solid album, ok far from being a masterpiece, but very enjoyble for sure from capo al fine.Some intristing keybords here, that from the first note anyone will recognize the master. Again cover versions, A Rolling Sones one , Playing with fire here sounds quite ok to me, The Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy is very refreshing to my ears, I don't understand why is so bad view this piece, Tumbling Ball. Noel McCalla voice fits ok in this kind of sound, he appear few years earlier on Plain music from 1991 also a Manfred Mann album but not under Earh Band this time. The rest of the musicians are in ok form, Roger , Thompson the veteran on drums from Jethro Tull early years Clive Bunker did a good job. So , a pleasent album all the way, not so well trieted here, the ratings and overall note is quite low, but the album sounds ok, even great in places, so why complaining from my side, I like it , I'm a big fan of the band and have almost all they released, minus a copule of live albums, so this one stands ok in my collection, is not a completionists item for sure. 3 stars easy, good album but not realy something of an intrest if you don't know MMEB before works.
Report this review (#486807)
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars Manfred Mann appears to have pulled out all the stops in trying to generate one more hit record for his Earth Band, or at least something more relevant than anything released in the group's name since the seventies. Award-winning producers, writers and accompaniment all converged for Mann's most lengthy and ambitious effort, at least in terms of expense and length of studio time. Too bad it was all largely for naught as the final result barely made a blip on the music radar, even in Germany where the band had somehow managed to retain a respectable fan base despite having issued no new music in nearly a decade. There is a vague hint of sexual ambiguity woven throughout much of this record, possibly intentional but more likely just a byproduct of Mann's song selection as well as the backgrounds and reputations of some of the supporting cast.

Things get a little weird right off the bat with the opening Divinyls cover. Drafted by the songwriting pair Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, "Pleasure and Pain" was intended to be the song that launched the Divinyls into stardom after a promising debut that included the libido-stroking hit "Boys in Town". Chapman and Knight had kept both Tina Turner and Pat Benatar at the top of the charts in the mid-eighties with the back-to-back Grammy-winning singles "Better be Good to Me" and "Love is a Battlefield" respectively, both of which were power pop tunes that became legendary in the MTV pantheon. The Divinyls weren't quite as fortunate, but this was at least a minor hit for them that managed moderate MTV rotation for a few months. The Earth Band's delivery is decent enough, but unlike their many Dylan and Springsteen covers the group can't quite make this one their own, possibly because it's too hard to forget the picture of the diminutive Australian sex-bomb Christina Amphlett in her skimpy sailor outfit, black garters and pouty lips churning this one out on MTV in the mid-eighties. Really after hearing this song coming from the lips of Earth Band vocalist Noel McCalla I just want to shut it off and go watch Amphlett's "I Touch Myself" video. A little disturbing frankly, and exactly the reason why Mann should have left this one alone.

"Play with Fire" is another sexually-charged tune originally recorded by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as sort of a dig at one of Jagger's highbrow lady friends, although which one has always been a little unclear. The Stones version is very well-known and really Mann and company show respect with their interpretation, but in the end don't add anything to song other than over-production and a vaguely Springsteen-sounding vocal track that fails to capture the intimacy of Jagger and Richards' original.

And over-production is pretty much the problem with the Del Amitri cover "Nothing Ever Happens" as well. Del Amitri developed something of a following based on their understated and largely acoustic folk/country/pop sound as a counter-balance to grunge in the late eighties, something apparently lost on Mann as he applied layer after layer of studio sheen on this version. Clearly an attempt at a radio single, and in fact it was released as a single but appropriately nothing ever happened with it.

There is at least one small flash of the old Earth Band sound on this record. Not enough to save the album of course, but at least worth acknowledgement. Mann went back to his roots with an old Dylan cover ("Shelter from the Storm") delivered with mellow backing vocals, a slow and moody instrumental arrangement and understated keyboards. I personally wouldn't include this on a Best-of collection, but it is a reminder of the band's strengths and a modest ray of sunshine on an otherwise boring album.

I suppose "Tumbling Ball" was another pop single attempt, this one from the forgettable 80s synth-pop crooner Mark Spiro, a guy who was much better known for writing and producing for the likes of the late Laura Branigan, Anne Murray and Pia Zadora. Once again Mann reaches for a random cover but clearly his ability to squeeze magic from turnips has waned and this one falls flat. The fact this is also one of the longest songs on the album is doubly puzzling. Suffice to say if Mann was trying to pull out another hit single he failed miserably. Same goes for the Robert Cray cover "The Price I Pay", a song that was written as a somber blues number but that became in Mann's hands a smooth adult contemporary tune in the vein of Michael McDonald, Don Henley and Peter Cetera's later solo work.

I don't really know who Cyril Schumann is but the two tracks credited to him ("Lose the Touch" and "Miss You") both come off sounding like Icehouse tunes thanks to the Footloose-like rhythms and cheesy synth keyboard bleating. Both sound much more like something the band would have released in the mid-eighties than in 1996, and both are rather confusing inclusions on an album that had enough material without them. Quintessential filler as far as I'm concerned.

Mann does manage a couple of originals ("Adults Only" and the two-part "Wherever Love Drops"), both of which demonstrate he had pretty much lost his inspiration as a writer by that point. "Adults Only" is a smooth-pop instrumental almost completely devoid of any soul, while the "Wherever Love Drops" duo consists of a couple brief spoken-word bits of fluff with lame backing keyboards that add absolutely nothing to this album.

And speaking of obscure, random inclusions "The Complete History of Sexual Jealousy" is another one. Written and recorded in several parts of several years by the nut-job avant artist Momus, this one features a pretty decent guitar track courtesy of Mick Rogers but otherwise comes across as a middle-aged dude trying to hard to be hip, and one who doesn't realize that no one says "hip" anymore at that. This one is just awkward.

I don't know the story behind "99 lbs.", a popish soul tune about a hot chick who apparently is bordering on anorexic (or maybe she's just tiny like Christina Amphlett). This was written by Dannie Bryant who I've never heard of, although I checked and he apparently wrote a few tunes for the Pointer Sisters so that gives you an idea of the caliber and style of the music. Possibly this was a song commissioned by Mann, but in any case there's nothing to distinguish it whatsoever.

The only other thing on the album is a fairly decent version of "Nature of the Beast", a song I know I've heard before somewhere but can't quite place. There are no credits for this song on the album, but it's clearly not a Mann original. I suspect it may have been written as a metal tune given the energetic tempo and rock-based rhythm but I really don't know. There's nothing wrong with this song really, it just doesn't sound much like the Earth Band. This would have sounded much better on 'Angel Station' than it does in 1996.

Anyway, the end was clearly in sight for the band by the time they popped this album out. It made nary a splash anywhere except apparently in Germany where fans had inexplicably not abandoned the band yet. They would though. I'm going to say two stars for this one. There's nothing horribly wrong with it I suppose, but the covers are mostly poorly chosen, and the weakest three tracks are the ones Mann wrote himself so overall it really doesn't deserve more than that. Not recommended, just move on to '2006' to hear the final death rattle on the band.


Report this review (#585562)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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