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


Manfred Mann's Earth Band


Eclectic Prog

2.37 | 80 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Planets schmanets

The official Manfred Mann's Earthband website describes "Masque" as the sequel to the 1973 album "Solar Fire". Quite how this definition is arrived at is not explained. There were some eight albums in between and there is little musically to tie the two together. Whereas "Solar fire" was a very complete album with a clear concept and all the tracks knitting together, "Masque" is a diverse collection of styles and sounds. Mick Rogers, who sang on "Solar fire", is firmly back in the lead vocal role here, having shared the duties on the previous "Criminal tango" with Chris Thomson.

There is certainly an enjoyable vocal reworking of "Joybringer", a piece which appeared on some but not all versions of "Solar fire", to kick things off. We also have some variations on "Planets" themes, but these are interspersed with songs which are quite at odds with any such concept. The rather jarring diversity of styles is immediately apparent on the following instrumental "Sister Billies bounce", an out and out jazz piece with brass lead. This is one of a pair of tracks, Charlie Parker's "Billies bounce" theme reappearing later on "Billies orno bounce", another jazz workout with a swing flavour and big band style.

While there are none of the customary Dylan or Springsteen covers we are instead treated to a radical interpretation of The Jam's "Start", re-titled "What you give is what you get". Maggie Ryder guests on lead vocals for this fine but woefully brief rendition which inexplicably fades midway through the instrumental section. Cream's "We're going wrong" is the second of the covers, Rogers vocal delivery being uncannily like that of Jack Bruce. The final cover closes the album. Michael Martin Murphey's "Geronimo's Cadillac" is probably best known through Cher's version, Maggie Ryder doing a passable impersonation of the ex Mrs Bono. The song tells the tale of how the native Indians were misled by false promises and broken treaties.

"Telegram to Monica" is a basic power ballad, written and sung by another guest vocalist Danny Newman. Mick Rogers offers a similar ballad with "Rivers run dry", his pleasant vocals giving the track an appeal on a pop level.

Apart from "Joybringer", the planets themes are located in the latter half of the album, "A couple of mates" bringing together "Mars" and "Jupiter" in a jazz styled improvisation. The brief "Neptune" which follows is a very soft, largely superfluous vocal piece. "Hymn (from "Jupiter") is recognisable as the "World in union" theme from the Rugby Union world cup, this instrumental rendition finally allowing Mann to take centre stage on keyboards. "Planets Schmanets" (silly title) is a gentle improvisation which once again fades far too soon, remaining substantially under-developed.

At under 40 minutes, the album is very short for a CD era release, reflecting the under-developed nature of many of the tracks. This would be MMEB's last album for almost 10 years. In retrospect, it describes a band desperately searching for a direction they feel comfortable with, and which will suit the mood of the times. In the end, it has to be said that they did not accomplish that objective.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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